De Lille seemingly 'had contractor in mind' for Beitbridge border project - Treasury

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Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille.
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille.
Jan Gerber, News24
  • National Treasury has raised concerns about Minister Patricia de Lille's directive for the erection and repair of the Beitbridge border fence.
  • Concerns were also raised about a variation order and weekly payments to contractors.
  • The contractors were awarded tenders worth R40 million for the project.

National Treasury has hinted that Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille "had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind" for the R40 million Beitbridge border fence project mired in controversy.

Treasury raised concerns about De Lille's directive stating the department's chief financial officer (CFO) "shall be advised as to the costs" of the project.

Ordinarily costs are determined based on the needs (from doing a site visit) and the bills of quantities.

Concerns were also raised about a variation order and weekly payments to contractors when payments are made on services rendered and against the bills of quantities.

This emerged as Treasury director general Dondo Mogajane and his officials met with the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday.

READ | Beitbridge fence fiasco: Govt splashed out R17m more than what it was meant to pay

Mogajane said the speed of the process flouted some of the regulations.

"There is a point of the CFO that will be advised. The CFO normally, in instances like this, should be leading the interventions to determine the costs as part of the process to build up work that must be undertaken. If the CFO is going to be advised, the question then becomes by who and when what had happened. We are seeing variations only normally issued if there is a contractual agreement already, so beforehand there is a variation," he said.

Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Andy Mothibi said no findings have been made against De Lille.

The department's national bid adjudication committee (NBAC) approved both bids for the project in March.

On 18 March, the NBAC approved the appointment of Caledon River Properties CC trading as Magwa Construction in the amount of R37 million to provide contractor services.

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

The next day, Profteam CC's appointment was approved to provide professional consultant services and at a cost of R3.2 million.

Acting head of Treasury's chief procurement office Estelle Setan said: "It is not clear which contract the minister instructed to be varied (as per 2.4.3 of the conditions). The correspondence from the minister referred to the variation order but did not provide the description of the order or details of the contractor but it would seem the minister had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind."

So far, disciplinary charges have been recommended against 14 senior officials in the department.

Last month, De Lille announced the precautionary suspension of the department's director general Sam Vukela.

In response, De Lille said she was prepared to be held accountable.

"I have respect for the Constitution. If there is any evidence that I benefitted, then please bring the evidence. With Beitbridge, when I became concerned about the reports, I contacted the Auditor-General to do an independent audit. On 25 April, I instructed the anti-corruption unit and they were assisted by the SIU. I took it a step further to stop payments to this company and that also happened," De Lille said.

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