Johannesburg - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) confirmed on Friday it is investigating "wide-ranging" allegations of irregularities at the department of public works.
"As a result of a direct request by and referrals from the department of public works (DPW), the (SIU) has an ongoing investigation into alleged irregularities at the DPW procurement division," the SIU said in a statement emailed to Sapa.
"The SIU can confirm that the 'Prestige Portfolio' is one of the focus areas for the DPW investigation, and some matters are at an advanced stage. These matters were among those referred to the SIU by the DPW."
The SIU added that the Prestige Portfolio is only one part of a wider investigation.
"The SIU would like to emphasise that the 'Prestige Portfolio' forms only one part of a wide-ranging investigation into procurement at DPW as a whole."
The investigation is looking at the procurement of goods and services, including leased accommodation on behalf of the public works department and other national departments.
The procurement processes were allegedly "not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and/or cost effective" and allegedly "contrary to applicable legislation, manuals, policy, procedures".
The SIU is also probing "the incurrence of irregular expenditure; fruitless and wasteful expenditure; and/or expenditure not due, owing or payable, in relation to payments made to property owners, property managers, consultants, suppliers and/or service providers for the furnishing of goods and/or services to the department, including leased accommodation", said the statement.
The public works department could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.
The Mail&Guardian newspaper reported on Friday that the SIU is probing abuses at the department of public works' Prestige Portfolio division, at the request of former minister Geoff Doidge, who was sacked two months after bringing in the SIU.
Doidge at the time said there were allegations of "huge mismanagement", a "lack of integrity around the procurement" and "collusion with service providers" in the department.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela last month released a report about an "unlawful" R500m lease agreement for police headquarters.
The report implicated both police chief Bheki Cele
and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde
Madonsela criticised Cele for authorising the agreement and said the public works department should never have signed the lease agreement.
The protector said Cele's conduct breached the constitution, the Public Finance Management Act, Treasury regulations and supply chain management rules and policies.
"This conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration," she said.
Last Wednesday, police visited the Public Protector's office - in what spokesperson McIntosh Polela called an "unauthorised" operation - and demanded that certain documents pertaining to the report be handed over to them.
Cele has denied that he acted unlawfully, and has distanced himself from the police visit to Madonsela's office.