Michael Masutha. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Michael Masutha. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha says his department is reviewing its reported R1.5bn in contracts with facilities management company Bosasa — with a view to cancelling them.

Masutha says national commissioner of correctional services Arthur Fraser, whose redeployment to that department is currently being challenged in court, will be in charge of the review process.

In response to questions from Business Day, Masutha also explicitly denied that he had received bribes from Bosasa. “The national commissioner has advised me, in light of the revelations, they’re working on reviewing that whole arrangement and I look forward to a report soon as to the prospects of us extricating ourselves out of this.”

Speaking at a media conference for newly appointed prosecutions head Shamila Batohi, the minister said he had repeatedly raised concerns about his department’s “evergreen” contracts with Bosasa, which required the state to move funds so as to keep paying its massive costs.

“I have been, myself, deeply concerned since I took office about this perpetual outsourcing. I have always had doubt that it was absolutely unavoidable," Batohi said. “But I’ve also asked how did we end up in a situation so many years down the line? We have not been able to develop our own in-house capacity to provide catering for our inmates at our big centres? Bosasa has been providing this service … with what is in effect an evergreen contract.”

He said he was given a number of explanations for the continued outsourcing of catering, but now — in light of the testimony of a number of current and former Bosasa employees at the state-capture inquiry — questioned whether these were narratives “artificially created to justify something that was not genuine”.

Masutha says he also questioned why the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) failed to act on a 2009 Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into the department of correctional services, which implicated senior Bosasa and department officials in tender rigging.

He says then acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Nomgcobo Jiba, whose fitness to hold office is now the subject of another ongoing inquiry, assured him that the prosecution was delayed because the Hawks were struggling to fund a much-needed forensic investigation.

The minister says he had “no inkling” that Jiba could herself have been bribed by Bosasa, as alleged by the company’s former COO Angelo Agrizzi.

Batohi told journalists on Friday that she had not met Jiba or fellow suspended NPA official Lawrence Mrwebi, who are both facing allegations of dishonesty and prosecutorial misconduct.

While not mentioning them by name, she stressed that there was no place in the NPA for officials who did not act with integrity.

“Prosecutors are not for sale.”

Asked how she would ensure that she was not subjected to political interference, Batohi said she had specifically asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to assure her the NPA’s independence would be respected.

“Unhesitatingly the president said there will be no interference in the work of the NPA.”

If there was, she said, she would “fiercely defend” the NPA’s independence, and would turn to the Constitutional Court if she needed to.