Acquisition of evern in Doornbach; Western Cape 2019/20 audit: AGSA briefing

Public Accounts (SCOPA) (WCPP)

14 February 2020
Chairperson: Mr L Mvimbi (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed on Mr B Herron’s (GOOD) complaint on the allegation of erven (a plot of land) purchased at an inflated price at Killarney Gardens by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the City of Cape Town and the Housing Development Agency. This meeting was convened to discuss the matter because of the Auditor-General’s absence.

Members debated the two issues surrounding the issue which were: the inflated purchasing price and undue political influence regarding the purchase. Members questioned the lack of sufficient evidence to support the allegations; the uncertainty surrounding SCOPA’s mandate to hold those involved accountable; and the request for more clarity on the actual offences committed in the acquisition process.

The Committee expressed a commitment to deal with the matter as well as explore the AG’s role because they were concerned that the Auditor-General’s office did not pick up on whether the Doornbach issue was true or not. Members agreed to summon those involved in the allegations to come forward to state their case as well as to utilise the Legal Department’s resources for assistance. A Member was tasked with doing some research on relations between AGs and their SCOPA equivalent’s in other countries.

The minutes of 29 November 2019 were adopted.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that due to the Auditor General’s unavailability, there was only one item on the agenda of the meeting: the acquisition of erven (a plot of land) in Doornbach which Mr B Herron (GOOD) reported to the Committee about, and requested an investigation. It was reported that the acquisition was paid at an inflated price and that there had been political interference that affected the normal procedure in a negative way.

Discussion on the Briefing on the acquisition of erven in Doornbach

Mr D America (DA) summarised the two key things exposed in Mr Herron’s complaint. One is that the property was purchased at an inflated price, and the second was the political interference in the acquisition of the land. Although he noted the evidence of political interference such as councillor members’ involvement cited by Mr Herron in his complaint, Mr America was not convinced that this evidence was sufficient to make such an allegation of corruption and undue influence. He suggested that the Committee should invite officials as well as involved parties and individuals to account for their actions.

Ms M Maseko (DA) commented that the allegation stated that there might have been corruption in the acquisition process. She raised the question as to what extent the Committee had the mandate should this allegation be true and therefore what power SCOPA has to hold those involved accountable. She also noted the lengthy time period from the submission made by Mr Herron - which had begun in 2014 and ended in 2018 - and remarked that the Committee needed to be refurbished with all the background information from 2014 to 2018, as well as the minutes of the discussions which involved all the stakeholders and Department officials. Ms Maseko enquired about the inconsistency between evaluation amounts in the documents and asked which version is more credible.

The Chairperson agreed on the lengthy process and expressed his concern about how this whole investigative process was going to play out.

Ms D Baartman (DA) asked what the actual offences committed by the involved parties were, and what actions were not allowed in the acquisition process. She suggested to the Committee that the Legal Department needs to assist the Committee on this matter. She also wanted to know if the information provided to Members was the information provided by the City of Cape Town or by Mr Herron.

The Chairperson replied that Member Herron had requested opening an investigation on the matter. The document presented to Members was provided by the relevant Departments upon request from the Committee.

Ms Baartman asked how the Committee was going deal with this matter. She wanted the Committee to ask the people involved to make an oral submission in front of the Committee on this allegation. She pointed out the inconsistency between Member Herron’s submission and the City of Cape Town’s documents on the question around whether the site was worth the purchasing value.

The Chairperson commented that SCOPA was indeed making progress on this matter since last year, but it was distracted by various departments’ Annual Performance Reports etcetera which had stalled the process. Now the committee needed to outline actual procedures for the plan of action. He agreed that the Committee needs to ask the Legal Department for assistance on the mandate of this Committee. He also agreed that alleged persons and parties had to come to the Committee and account for their actions. This needed to take place after the Committee had the necessary legal advice. He agreed with Mr America’s view that inflation values and political interference needed to be proven with solid evidence. The Committee can deal with the former by getting an independent evaluator to assess the property.  

Ms Maseko wanted to know how the Committee could get the Housing Development Agency (HDA) to co-operate since they were the one key stakeholder involved in the negotiation and had approved the amount. The HDA is the key party involved in the allegation.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had not communicated with the HDA and asked the Procedural Officer to set a date.

Mr America noted a document without a signature dated 13 September 2018 amongst the documents in front of all the Members. He questioned the authenticity of the document. Mr America agreed with Ms Baartman and Ms Maseko’s view that the Committee needed legal assistance. He was uncertain about the possible options that the Committee had from a legal perspective. He asked for a deadline to be set to have the legal briefing done.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee would invite the legal department to brief members on what the Committee could do without contravening certain rules. He emphasised the complications around some of the legal issues.

Mr America asked if the Legal Department could be provided with all the evidence at the Committee’s disposal to better serve its cause.

The Chairperson agreed and commented that the matter had been thoroughly discussed. He indicated his intention to move to the next item on the agenda.

Ms Maseko enquired about the Auditor-General’s role in the Doornbach issue.

The Chairperson replied that because this issue was not brought forward to the AG, they would not be briefed on the issue. He commented that learning accountability is important for Members and this learning process needs to be reinforced with practise both internally and externally. He told Members a story about the National SCOPA Chairperson having been invited to the European Union to learn about accountability in practice. He also cited an example that the Committee was going to be visited by the City of Tshwane in 2019. He asked Members what their views were in terms of learning best practices about accountability.

Ms Maseko said that she would like to learn about the relations between SCOPA and the Auditor-General offices in other countries. She said that in some countries SCOPA has the power to hold the AG’s office accountable, and it gets a budget allocation from the AG’s office.  

The Chairperson suggested that the Honourable Maseko do some research on the matter and report to the Committee in the next meeting

Mr America expressed concern that the Auditor-General’s office did not pick up on whether the Doornbach issue was true. He expressed doubt over the allegation because of the timing as Mr Herron only reported this irregularity after he left his office.


Ms Baartman proposed the adoption of the draft minutes of 29 November 2019 and Mr America seconded. The 29 November 2019 minutes were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


Share this page: