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By News24 Wire

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Auditor-general to investigate Beitbridge fence – De Lille

'The fence was hardly up for one day and the crooks came through with cases of cigarettes and smuggled food and all of that,' De Lille told parliamentary committees.

Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille says the auditor-general (AG) will investigate the controversial tender for a fence near the Beitbridge border.

Furthermore, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been asked to patrol the area, now that the project is complete.

“The fence was hardly up for one day and the crooks came through with cases of cigarettes and smuggled food and all of that,” De Lille told the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure and the Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration, and Public Works and Infrastructure, during a meeting with the minister and her department on Monday.

In his presentation to the committees, the deputy director-general for construction management, Batho Mokhothu, said the department was in the early stages of appointing a service provider after they were told by the SANDF that their strategic borderline infrastructure was in a bad condition. This was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, he said.

The project is intended to be a short to medium term solution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is expected to have a negative health, economic and social impact in South Africa.

The day following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national state of disaster on 15 March, De Lille, as per the Disaster Management Act, issued a directive for the emergency securing of the South African border posts, the first focus being on the Beitbridge border post and identified hotspots at this borderline.

Departmental and SANDF officials had a site meeting at the Beitbridge border post on 17 March.

The following day, urgent meetings were held.

“The ordinary procurement process would take three months to get a contractor, which is not in line with the directive,” reads Mokothu’s presentation.

“It was prudent to invoke the emergency procurement process that entailed the appointment of the required service providers through a negotiated procedure that was approved by NBAC [National Bid Adjudication Committee].”

The contractor was selected based on its experience, was appropriately qualified, and was already working on a repair and maintenance programme project at Beitbridge.

The work had to be done on 20km on both sides of Beitbridge. The site was handed over to the contractor on 19 March.

De Lille said it is not correct to say the fence costs R37 million – that is the amount the tender was awarded for, but the final account is in 14 days, and, currently, the department has paid R21 million to the contractor.

De Lille said she has written to the AG, Kimi Makwetu, to ask that his office investigate whether the department got value for its money and whether the correct processes were followed.

Several members indicated that the committees should visit the border post for an oversight inspection.

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