Parliament’s public finance watchdog supports the directive from law enforcement agencies that the department of public works pays no further money on the “absolute mess” of a fence at the Beitbridge border until all investigations are completed.
The fence is 40km long.
The day following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national state of disaster on 15 March, public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille, as per the Disaster Management Act, issued an emergency directive for the securing of South African border posts, the first focus being on the Beitbridge border post.
Hotspots on this borderline were also identified.
This meant that the usual procurement processes didn’t have to be followed. The committee was not impressed by what it heard from the department and De Lille.
“Something is not right. Something is amiss. The pieces of the puzzle are not fitting,” committee chairperson, the IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa, said.
“Your story needs to make sense. It doesn’t.”
The committee was particularly roused by the assertion of the department’s director general Sam Vukela that the fence is serving its purpose.
“That fence is a mess, an absolute mess,” said Hlengwa.
“There is no way that fence is [worth] R37 million.”
De Lille said the question whether they got their money’s worth with the fence, is exactly why she asked the Auditor-General (AG) to investigate the matter.
“I have questioned the value of this cost right from the beginning,” she said.
“I agree something has to be done, that is why I have asked for an investigation.”
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe pointed out that she issued the directive to procure the fence.
She said she did this to “give guidance” and to ensure it was dealt with the necessary urgency. The matter is the subject of several investigations.
Hlengwa said the National Treasury will release its report next Friday, and this will form the “North Star” of the committee’s work going forward.
He said the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) investigators have already visited the fence.
De Lille said she was unaware that the SIU was investigating the matter or who asked for the investigation.
When the SIU appeared before the portfolio committee on justice last month, its head Andy Mothibi said the department of public works and infrastructure asked them to investigate.
The procurement procedures behind erecting the fence are also being investigated by the AG and the Public Protector.
Hlengwa said Scopa would visit the fence as soon as conditions allow.
At Scopa’s next meeting on this matter, it will call the department of defence and the department of home affairs to respond to the extent of their involvement on this project. Scopa will also call the project manager to be present to detail their method of operation.