SIU set to freeze bank accounts of companies involved in Beitbridge border fence fiasco

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A general view of the border fence that separates South Africa and Zimbabwe near the Beitbridge border post.
A general view of the border fence that separates South Africa and Zimbabwe near the Beitbridge border post.
Phill Magakoe, AFP
  • The SIU's application to freeze the bank accounts of two companies responsible for the construction of the Beitbridge border fence will be heard on Thursday.
  • Government budgeted R40 million, of which R21 million has already been paid, for an ineffective border made of barbed wire.
  • Those trying to escape economic hardship in neighbouring Zimbabwe could easily cut the wire and enter South Africa illegally.

Companies involved in the "construction" of the Beitbridge bridge border fence could soon be left with very little money to spend.

That's if the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has its way in the Special Tribunal on Thursday when its bid to freeze the bank accounts of Caledon River Properties CC trading as Magwa Construction and Profteam CC will be heard.

The companies are responsible for the construction of the porous R40 million border fence.

This emerged as SIU head Andy Mothibi met with Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday.

"As we speak, we are pursuing civil litigation to recover the monies that have been paid to the service providers and any other related damages that may have been caused to the department. On that matter, I report that the process is underway, the case is on the roll of the Special Tribunal for 8 October and the application at this stage is to get a restraint order that freezes the accounts of the service providers.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also attended Scopa's meeting.

READ | Special Tribunal for frozen bank accounts linked to Gauteng irregular PPE tender to start

Mothibi said part B (of the application) will deal with the exact amounts that are to be recovered "notably the R21 million that has been paid".

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 to provide contractor services for the amount of R37 million. The next day Profteam CC's appointment was approved to provide professional services at a cost of R3.2 million.

Mothibi said he was satisfied with the action the department had taken.

He said: 

Out of the investigation and now that we have the proclamation, we are dealing with it in the context of the legal expectation. We have referred four criminal matters to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). [These include] two service providers and two officials of the department. We will be working in conjunction with our colleagues in the NPA to ensure that prosecution follows. We expect convictions so that there is appropriate consequence management for this.

He also said the fence does not meet the prescribed requirements.

An investigation into the Beitbridge border fence project has found that the government paid R17 million more than the market-related cost.

A further assessment using market-related prices for materials actually used on-site and revised fees for engineering services provides for a total project cost of R23 388 023.97. This indicates that the project costs were exceeded by an amount of R17 047 891.01.

READ ALSO |  'Stop being lazy', De Lille tells DA who wants her sacked over Beitbridge border fiasco

Investigators also found at least 115 breaches.

The most glaring was that the design of the fence had a final height of 2.2m and the final actual height of the fence reached no more than 1.8m on either side of the border.

ANC MP Mervyn Dirks said the tender process was flawed from the start.

ALSO READ | De Lille in for another rough week in Parliament as MPs deliberate on Beitbridge border fiasco

"They had meetings on a daily basis to discuss the Beitbridge border. If there were daily discussions, how did this happen? But the real problem started with the minster's directive. It was too much of a direct interference and that is where all control was lost," he said.

EFF MP Veronica Mente said: "Was a due diligence conducted on the service providers? Who pressed the button to pay these companies and can we get the money back? What else must happen here before we act?"

In response, De Lille said: "We will oblige to any additional questions directed to DPWI. This was a joint effort to get to the bottom of the fence debacle. The fence is not fit for purpose."

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