No proof public funds paid for Zuma house upgrade: minister

A government inquiry into a multi-million-dollar upgrade to South African President Jacob Zuma's private residence found he did not use public money for the works, but also identified some irregularities, a minister announced Sunday.

"There is no evidence that public money was spent to build the private residence of the president or that any house belonging to the president was built with public money," Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi told a press conference.

The developments to the ANC leader's residence in his native village of Nkandla in eastern South Africa triggered a public outcry.

Opposition parties questioned the legality of spending state funds on the president's private property to carry out upgrades which included a helipad and underground bunkers, according to media reports.

Zuma has always denied using taxpayers' money for the project, saying the state only financed improvements to security at the complex.

"We took this unprecedented approach to inform the public about this specific project, to quell some of the misconceptions which have been falsely peddled in the public space," said Nxesi.

He said the state bill for the work came to 206 million rand ($23 million, 17 million euros), lower than figures previously quoted in the international press.

But the inquiry did find some irregularities, Nxesi said.

"It is very clear that there were a number of irregularities with regards to the appointment of service providers and procurement of goods and services," he said, adding that disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible.

He said Zuma was informed the security upgrades would be made, but was not aware of the details.

"The details are with public works, informed by what comes from the security department," he said.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said Zuma and his family did not even have a say in the security works.

"They were not involved with the design and installation of security measures," he said.

"The president was not involved and no money was used for the upgrade of the residence," added Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.

Zuma's ruling African National Congress immediately welcomed the report, which the government said could not be published for security reasons.

But the main opposition leader in parliament, Lindiwe Mazibuko of the Democratic Alliance, condemned the investigation as "a poor attempt to shield President Zuma from being held accountable for this exorbitant waste of public money on his private residence".

"The fact that this report will not be made public brings into question its independence and casts a further shadow on the entire scandal," she said.