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Originally published Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 3:31 AM

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South Africa top cop criticized on building lease

South Africa's national police chief on Thursday said other officials and another department were to blame if there was any mishandling of the leasing of new police offices, after a government watchdog said he was ultimately responsible.

Associated Press Writer

JOHANNESBURG —

South Africa's national police chief on Thursday said other officials and another department were to blame if there was any mishandling of the leasing of new police offices, after a government watchdog said he was ultimately responsible.

Bheki Cele's comments during a nationally televised news conference came three days after the release of a government watchdog's report on the incident.

"I was not personally involved in this process," Cele said.

But Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that by dealing with only one company - headed by a businessman described as a friend of the president - 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."

Calling Cele's conduct "unlawful," Madonsela has called on the government to determine if the lease can be terminated, and to demand an explanation from the officials involved. Madonsela investigated after a Johannesburg newspaper, the Sunday Times, reported on problems with the lease last year.

Madonsela also criticized other police officials and the government department responsible for obtaining office space for other departments.

Cele said Thursday that no officers would move into the building until a final determination was made on the lease's legality.

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