Public Works releases Nkandla files

Public Works has released 42 files with over 12,000 pages on Nkandla to the Mail & Guardian.

The Nkandla homestead. Picture: City Press.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Public Works has released 42 files with over 12,000 pages on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead upgrade to the Mail & Guardian (M&G).

Investigator at AmaBhungane, M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, Craig McKune, spoke to Talk Radio 702's John Webb about what they found.

McKune said the documents were incomplete, but there were signs of irrational spending decisions since 2009 when Zuma became president.

"Zuma was directly involved but we're not sure what his involvement was because those are documents missing."

McKune added quantity surveyors were sidelined and costs increased as there was a sense of urgency and secrecy.

This report was declared top secret and was closed to public scrutiny.

The request, submitted a year ago, pointed out that the act obliged the department to redact parts of the requested information related to security, while making the rest available.

The files contained numerous references to documents or annexures that had not been disclosed. It said there appeared to be no security-related basis for their redaction.

There was nothing in the Nkandla files that could not have been publicly disclosed, except for how senior officials and politicians "scrambled" to meet deadlines set by Zuma, and how shortcuts were taken on tendering processes.

Money was also shifted from other programmes to accommodate the unbudgeted spending. The M&G reported that the cost of the Nkandla homestead ballooned from a R27.8m plan in 2009 to a projected total of about R270m in October 2012.

The official expenditure as of June this year was R210.5m. This did not appear to include bills yet to be paid.

A letter written by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi to the Speaker of Parliament, Max Sisulu, suggests he may have lied about the Top Secret classification of his department's Nkandlagate report.

In the letter, Nxesi tells Sisulu that the report could not be given to the Auditor-General or the Special Investigating Unit until it was declassified by "the authors".

Meanwhile Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has criticised government's decision to classify a report into the refurbishment of Zuma's Nkandla home as "top secret".

He was quoted as saying "There is no reason. Once there was a clamour and an outcry about it and an investigation is initiated there is no need to then shroud it in secrecy," "Once there is a shroud of secrecy, it gives rise to speculation, it gives rise to suspicion, it gives rise to mistrust."