Police get hi-tech body vests - at R33k a pop
Durban middleman scores in R6.7m deal for new body armour
The South African Police Service has splashed out on what could be the most expensive bulletproof vests in the world.
Almost R6.7-million has been shelled out so far for 200 hi-tech lightweight vests for ballistics testing, and another order - believed to be valued at R33-million - from Indian manufacturer MKU could be in the pipeline.
The police paid R33,402 per vest, a significant slice of which went to the middleman, Durban businessman Inbanathan Kistiah.The contract was awarded without going out to tender. After it was awarded, however, the National Treasury refused a late request to allow a deviation from normal tender procedures.
The price has been described as "ridiculous" by Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies.
"We all agree that the police need better vests, more comfortable ones, but can the price really be justifiable? We need to ensure manufacturers are not exploiting the search for better protection for police members by inflating the prices," he said.
LIGHTENING THE POLICE BURDEN
Police bought the MKU "generation 6 technology" vests and armour-plate inserts from Kistiah's company, I-View Integrated Systems, which in turn imported them from MKU in India.
Vests bought locally by police cost between R6,000 and R8,000. While they are also capable of stopping a bullet from an AK47, R1 or R5, they weigh about 8.2kg - nearly twice as much as the 4.2kg MKU vest.
Over and above the MKU vests, the police bought 11,220 locally made bulletproof vests in the financial year ending in March.
MKU, which supplies protection and surveillance equipment to security forces around the world, charged I-View Integrated Systems, its sole agent in South Africa, R2.45-million for the 200 vests and plates, which were delivered in January.
Kistiah said he spent about another R1.9-million on customs charges, air transport from India, interest on loans and other operational costs.
He added a profit mark-up of R2.35-million, or R11725 a vest - equivalent to 28.5% of the final price to the police.The Treasury said this week that it did not approve the request for a deviation because the police had failed to provide documentary proof that I-View was the only supplier of this type of vest.
The auditor-general could deem the cost as "irregular expenditure".
Police spokeswoman Brigadier Mashadi Selepe said a tender process to buy more MKU G6 vests "is well under way".
She could not give the value of the contract. But the Sunday Times understands that the divisional commissioner for human resource development, Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, recommended in February to the then acting national commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane that a further 1,000 vests be bought at a cost of R33.4-million.
The initial order was placed shortly after a police delegation was invited by MKU to visit Germany last year, where the body armour was demonstrated.
SERVING IN COMFORT
Selepe said the police service had undertaken a process to "evaluate the current resources and the feasibility of upgraded bullet-resistant vests, taking into account the comfort of members during execution of their duties".
She said the SAPS was satisfied with the vest after testing the initial batch and had requested additional vests through the Treasury.
Isheet Rajput, deputy manager of international sales for MKU, referred queries to I-View.
Kistiah, whose company specialises in the installation, supply and maintenance of closed-circuit TV cameras and access control, among other things, denied the cost of the vests was exorbitant.
He said he was not aware of the new tender."The generation 6 ... vest is the Rolls-Royce of bulletproof vests. If the SAPS has to adopt that type of vest, you will never see a police officer without it, because it's lighter."
But Burger questioned whether police could justify the expenditure.
"I think the police will argue that they were expected all along to find a new kind of jacket that is equally, or even more, safe and which has less negative qualities," he said.
"They will also argue that the lives of their members are more important than the amount of money spent on jackets."
COME OUT — YOU'RE SURROUND SOUNDED
Lieutenant-General Kgomotso Phahlane was removed as the acting national police commissioner in June after complaints of impropriety and corruption. Ipid is investigating allegations of corruption and money-laundering‚ some of which involvePhahlane’s purchase of an R80,000 sound system for his home from a South African Police Service supplier.