Report calls for charges against 14 public works officials over R1m/km Beitbridge fence

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Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille.
Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille.
  • An investigation uncovered alleged procedural irregularities regarding the controversial tender for a fence near the Beitbridge border.
  • Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said there was a projected spend of R40.4 million, just over R1 million per kilometre of fence.
  • The report has recommended disciplinary charges against 14 of her senior officials.

An investigation into the Beitbridge border fence project has uncovered several alleged procedural irregularities, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille revealed on Saturday.

She said as a result of the irregular application of the emergency procurement process, there was a projected spend of R40.4 million - which amounted to more than R1 million per kilometre of fence.

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The overall project cost should have amounted to R26.1 million, and was therefore overpriced by R14.3 million.

The investigation also revealed several aspects of the design specification as well as poor construction practices had compromised the effectiveness of the fence as a deterrent for crossing the South African border with Zimbabwe.

It found the effecting of an advance payment of R21.8 million to the contractor and R1.8 million to the principal agent within days of their respective appointments was irregular because no material was delivered and construction had not commenced. 

Minister de Lille said:
"At all times, the cost of the project communicated to me was in the region of R37.1-million. It was only much later that officials informed me of the additional cost of just over R3.2million for the Principal Agent for professional services and project management which led to the actual total projected spend being just over R40.4million."

The report has recommended disciplinary charges against 14 senior officials in the department.

De Lille said it also recommended the matter should be brought before the Special Tribunal, which is investigating Covid-19-related projects.

She added the report also stated the principal agent and main contractor should be restricted from doing business with the government subject to National Treasury's approval should it be found they were in any way complicit in any acts of criminality. 

De Lille said the investigation had not found any evidence of impropriety on her part and no evidence suggesting she had benefited personally from the project. 

ALSO READ | Patricia de Lille's plan to engage 20 400 workers to help fight the coronavirus

"It has, however, found a number of alleged procedural irregularities within the department which will become the subject of my attention in the weeks ahead to tighten up the internal control and systems in the DPWI [Department of Public Works and Infrastructure].

"I wish to assure the public that I have every intention of ensuring that any official who has been found guilty of any wrongdoing will be dealt with in the appropriate manner and will be held accountable."

She added once all allegations were tested, action would be taken against those found guilty of wrongdoing. 

De Lille said she would also be requesting regular reports on the recommendations made by the investigation to ensure consequence management practices were being followed.  

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