A South African government watchdog said Tuesday that the national police chief broke rules intended to ensure public money is not misspent when a new headquarters building was leased from a businessman described as a friend of the president.
In a report Tuesday, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a government official charged with policing the civil service, declared the lease invalid. Her investigation came after the Sunday Times, a Johannesburg newspaper, raised questions about the deal last year.
Police chief Bheki Cele's spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
In a country gripped by high rates of violent crime, Cele took over the police last year, replacing a predecessor who was later convicted of graft for actions while in office.
Madonsela found that by dealing with only one company and failing to seek competitive bids, Cele violated laws and regulations meant "to ensure that goods and services are procured in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective.
"This conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration," the report said.
But Madonsela said she was unable to establish whether the deal resulted from an "improper relationship" between the police and businessman Roux Shabangu, who is said to be a friend of President Jacob Zuma.
The police had said the urgent need for a building left no time for bidding, but Madonsela said that argument was "not justified."
Madonsela, whose power extends only to investigations, called on the government to determine if the lease can be terminated, and to demand an explanation from the officials involved.