04 May 2020
08 Jul 2020
The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure and the Select Committee on Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure was briefed by the Department on the suspension of the Director-General, Adv Sam Vukela, the state funerals corruption allegations, and the Beitbridge border fencing project. This was a virtual meeting.
The Committee welcomed the suspension of Adv Sam Vukela and urged the Department to ensure that he is held accountable for his misconduct.
The Committee called for the removal of Crocia Events for the inflated funeral prices it has charged the Department. There is a “restrictive committee” within the Department which is responsible for processing the information which then goes to National Treasury where it is determined whether certain companies should be removed from the government database. This is why the company was allowed to bid for the particular funeral. They were selected based on the fact that it is the cheapest service provider.
The Minister stated that the Director-General in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, wrote to the Department regarding the inputs into the view of the funeral policy. The Department is awaiting the draft policy to come to Cabinet for further consideration and approval. The draft policy will place a cap on the budget for state funerals with the aim of minimising overspending and corruption. While the policy is in review, interim measures are being utilised.
The Beitbridge border fencing project does not meet the requirements in accordance with the procurement framework and thus the Department wants it to be determined as an invalid contract. This will enable the Department to only pay for what value it received. Where there was no value received, claims will be put against the companies for restitution.
The Committee called for the Minister to be held accountable for the corruption that has occurred in the Beitbridge border fence project. The Minister stated that she will be the first to be held accountable under the authority of Parliament. She stated that she is in favour of building a country where everyone is equal before the law and respects the rule of law and is willing to go so far as to open up her banking accounts for scrutiny to prove that she has not benefitted from any forms of corruption.
The recommendation for criminal charges to be brought against individuals from the particular companies is underway. There is at least one employee against whom criminal charges are being considered; there may be additional employees charged but it is pending ongoing investigations. The 14 officials who are due to undergo disciplinary action have not been restricted from finding employment in other Departments as the disciplinary processes have not yet been finalised. Following the outcomes of the disciplinary processes, such action may be taken. The Department will report to the Committee once the cases have been finalised.
The Chairperson welcomed all in attendance. She stated that corruption allegations within the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI or Department) have been all over the media. The Director-General (DG) of the DPWI has been suspended and Mr Imtiaz Fazel has assumed the role of Acting Director-General (ADG). The President has condemned corruption in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the Committee cannot turn a blind eye to any allegations of corruption.
Suspension of Director-General
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Patricia de Lille (GOOD), stated that on 28 July 2020, she put Adv Vukela (Director-General, DPWI) on precautionary suspension, effective 29 July 2020, pending the finalisation of disciplinary processes instituted against him.
This was a result of the President informing the Minister that he would delegate Adv Vukela’s powers to her to initiate a disciplinary process against Adv Vukela. The office of the State Law Advisor appointed a legal firm, Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom, to assist with the matter. The process follows two reports that were investigated, one by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) which investigated irregularities related to the provision of moveable infrastructure for official funerals that occurred during 2018. The second report was on irregular appointments that also occurred in 2018.
According to section 27, item 2.72c of chapter 7 of the Senior Management Handbook, disciplinary action must commence within 60 days of the date of the delivery of the letter to the DG. An internal disciplinary process will be chaired by a senior advocate which will convene in due course. In order to protect the integrity of the process and the rights of the DG, in terms of the Labour Relations Act, the Minister will not make any further comment until the process has been concluded.
Beitbridge Border Fence Investigation Presentation
Mr Fazel (ADG, DPWI) presented the Beitbridge border fence project investigation to the Committees.
Given the urgency of securing the borders, on 16 March 2020, the Minister issued a directive to the DG of the Department, Adv Vukela, directing him to appoint a service provider using emergency procurement processes in relation to the erection and repair of the borderline fence at the Beitbridge Border Post. On 20 April 2020, the Minister requested the Auditor-General (AG) to conduct an independent audit into the Beitbridge border fence project and requested that the external audit cover all aspects of the project process including whether the DPWI received value for money for the contract. A moratorium was placed on all further project payments until further notice to mitigate any further financial risk to the Department. The Departmental Investigating Team was assisted by two members from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) as well as by built environment professionals from the technical unit of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC), which undertook a technical evaluation of the border fence installation.
The investigation as a whole revealed a series of procurement and other irregularities perpetrated during the infrastructure delivery process, as well as possible acts of fraud perpetrated by identified Department officials, and the border fence project service providers.
It is also apparent that the Department failed to compare market prices to ascertain the reasonability of the contracting price. The procurement framework of bid specification, evaluation and adjudication was not properly followed. The aforementioned process failed to achieve the objectives of a competitive, transparent, reasonable and fair procurement process, making it irregular in terms of Section 217 of the Constitution as well as Treasury and departmental regulations.
Drawings and specifications of the work compared with what was actually built indicated that they were misaligned. The assessment also found that the fence was not in compliance with the drawings and specifications. The technical assessment also found that significant elements of the border fence project were not implemented at all. For example, the design of the fence had a final height of 2.2 meters, yet the final actual height of the fence reached no more than 1.8 meters on either side of the border, making it more easily scalable. During a site visit on 4 and 5 May 2020, the Department recorded at least 115 breaches of the fence which may have resulted in an untold number of unlawful crossings between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Using 2016 contract rates (at which rates this project was contracted), the assessment found that the total project cost should have amounted to R26.1 million; it was therefore overpriced by R14.3 million.
The DPWI recommends that disciplinary charges be instituted against 14 senior officials of the Department as a result of a range of alleged acts of misconduct perpetrated mainly during the procurement and construction phases of the Beitbridge border fence project.
It is recommended that the Department should register a criminal case for fraud against the Principal Agent, Main Contractor, and designated officials, for misrepresenting to the DPWI that project objectives were achieved.
Ms L Shabalala (ANC) asked if the Department was not jumping the gun, as the SIU tribunal was mandated to investigate and implement what is necessary upon reviewing the report. The recommendations related to the 14 personnel undergoing disciplinary action mentioned by the ADG. However, this had already been conveyed to the media prior to its tabling before the Committee. She asked what the correct procedure for state funerals was, and whether there would be a panel of service providers that go through a transparent process.
Over and above the AG and the government’s anti-fraud mechanism, she queried how much the DPWI was paying PWC and Cheadle and Thompson. Ms Shabalala said she did research on Cheadle and Thompson and found that it had performed investigations for the DPWI previously; she asked whether they were reappointed since old files were being revived. She asked, further, if there was value for money in reappointing Cheadle and Thompson as well as PWC.
Ms A Siwisa (EFF) stated that Crocia Events was appointed for another funeral despite previously having been found to inflate funeral prices. She asked what informed this decision and if other DPWI officials were suspended along with Adv Vukela.
A previous report on the border fence was presented before the Committee. The issue of pricing was raised by the Committee as well as the use of one contractor for all borders. It is as disturbing as in the previous report; daily reports from the site were said to have been given, yet the Committee only finds out now that prices were inflated. Ms Siwisa suggested that the DPWI start its own construction company because the ADG had pointed out a lack of inspection of prices. The prices for the fencing project in 2016 may have been inflated and the charges for the 2020 project were based on 2016 prices, resulting in overspending. It seems like it is becoming a norm in the DPWI to be charged inflated prices. Parts of the border fence were not structurally sound, yet the same company was given a contract to erect additional fences.
If 14 officials were taken in for disciplinary action, why is the Minister not being held accountable? The Minister, DG and DDG should have seen these things happening. The decrease in budget for Monitoring and Evaluation has resulted in these circumstances. Has the construction company and Crocia Events been removed from performing other projects for the government?
Ms M Hicklin (DA) stated that the contract for the Beitbridge Border Project was awarded at light speed. The State of Disaster was announced on 15 March 2020 and by 25/26 March 2020, contracts were awarded for the erection of the border fence. By 25 April 2020 a moratorium was placed on payments for the border fence because of apparent red flags. R21.8 million was paid to the contractor; R1.8 million had been paid to the project manager; how is it possible that the Committee finds out only now that 14 officials have been implicated for their alleged acts of misconduct? This issue has been raised by previous colleagues. The buck stops with the Minister; she needs to stop looking for scapegoats and instead ensure that guilty persons face prison time. The inflated prices in 2016 has costed the Department an excess of R14 million for a border fence that can be cut with ordinary wire-cutters. It does not meet basic standards let alone high standards.
Ms S Graham (DA) stated that the Minister had prior knowledge of the Principal Agent, since the latter is appointed on every project carried out under the DPWI. An advisor in the Minister’s office was on site with both the Principle Agent and the contractor on 17 March 2020, interacted with both parties, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), as well as other role players in the Department. Thus, Ms Graham does not understand how the Minister was not aware of the Principle Agent’s cost. The Minister forwarded the matter to the AG, following an enquiry from an entrepreneur on 8 and 9 April 2020. The Minister’s own legal representative vetted the entire process and declared that the procurement procedure undertaken was correct. Was this process referred to an internal audit or legal audit before it was referred to the AG? Ms Graham stated that she has a copy of a letter sent by Adv Vukela to the SIU remonstrating the SIU for undertaking an investigation into the border fence project under the instruction of Mr Fazel apparently without the knowledge of the Minister and Adv Vukela. However, it is not said that the Minister gave the instruction to the SIU, may the Committee be furnished with the directive given to the SIU by the Minister?
The Committee has not seen the investigation report, the technical report, nor the National Treasury report done on behalf of the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA). Will the Committee have access to those reports? From where did the irregularities emanate? There was a variation order mentioned in a previous briefing to appoint the existing contractor given that it was already on site; did this form part of the Minister’s directive? May the Committee be provided with this directive? On 20 May, the Committee was informed that the project was signed off by an engineer and was awaiting the supplier’s warranty. The Committee was advised that the components were off-the-shelf and were installed according to the specifications. The Minister cited a couple of reasons for the high cost of the fence such as logistical challenges and the fast-track nature of the job. The Minister stated in an interview on 18 April 2020 that all checks and balances were in place; the method of procurement and the appointment of the service provider were vetted and approved by the adjudication committee. In previous meetings, Ms Graham had raised the issue of the hyper-inflated prices in 2016 which nobody has been able to justify.
The specifications of the fence were 1.8 meters, in alignment with the existing fence. What was the design specifications on this? How is it possible that there was a deviation from the fence line? Which country has gained land due to the deviation? A number of questions regarding the border fence project has been submitted to the Minister. A number of the responses have contradicted what has come out from the investigation. What responsibility has the Minister taken for this? Providing contradictory information prevents the Committee from delivering adequate oversight.
Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) asked whether the tender was open to all contractors or only preferred service providers, considering the short timeframe given by the Minister to erect the border fence. Was the appointed contractor the cheapest? The holes in the fence prove that it was not value for money. What will be done to protect the borders? What consequence management will ensue for the design specifications that were not adhered to? The Minister stated that the Disaster Management Act had to be adhered to; is the Committee satisfied that it was within the mandate of the Minister to act in relation to this Act? The Department needs to get its act together, the loose ends and irregular expenditures are not acceptable.
Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) said that the suspension of the DG, Adv Vukela, was long overdue, and he commended the Minister for taking this action. The pricing of funerals needs to be understood because R36 million for a funeral does not make sense, especially in the case of funerals taking place during lockdown since the number of people in attendance is restricted.
What was the nature of the procurement process for the border fence project, was it an open tender process? What influenced the procurement process? It was stated that the fence would be 2.2 metres high, however this is not the case. What did the Department pay for and what product was rendered? Criminal charges are recommended to be laid against the Principle Agent and the main contractor. Any payment that goes through the DPWI, should only occur after a technical team has inspected the product.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) said that the Committee should look at recommendations for corrective measures for the border fence project, and that these should be adopted by the Committee as the recommendations the DPWI will need to implement. The Committee cannot take on the work of the SIU. The AG will submit a post facto report that will need to be examined and the recommendations that come from that report should also be implemented and taken seriously by the Department. The corrective measures presented by the DPWI are correct, but the Committee should add measures if necessary.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) said that he warned the Minister on a number of occasions that Adv Vukela was problematic, which former Cabinet Ministers can attest to. Adv Vukela did not want to respond to questions in the Annual Performance Plan (APP) about state functions. He was also involved in the Roux Shabangu deal that was a multi-billion-rand scandal in 2010. Disciplinary action was taken against Adv Vukela and Bheki Cele for this deal. However, Adv Vukela managed to be reinstated after being dismissed. The Minister needs to take every step to ensure that Adv Vukela is held accountable on this occasion.
All procurement must be fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective, per Section 217 of the Constitution. All procurements must pass this standard. The eighth note by the National Treasury—passed in 2008—made clear that any procurement over R100 000 has to be subjected to a bidding process. That arrangement has not changed, so it is concerning that there are negotiated agreements for DPWI projects. There should be no negotiating for appointing a sole provider; that is irregular. There should have been a competitive bidding process.
On 8 May 2020, Mr Brauteseth posed a question to the Minister about the border fence, and included questions concerning the bid specifications and documents, the request for the invitation of tenders, received tenders, the bidding evaluation process, and the bidding adjudication process. The response received from the Office of the Minister on 20 May 2020, was that there was no need to answer questions that related to the actual details of the contract and that the entire process was completed under Treasury Note 18, which relates to special procurement during COVID19. Effectively, the response indicates that there is no trouble, and everything is perfect. The report presented in the current meeting directly contradicts that. In the 20 May response from the Minister, she stated that her response was based on the information provided to her by officials; who are these officials that mislead the Minister and what actions will be taken?
Mr P van Staden (FF+) said that he is concerned about the money spent in erecting the fence which has been damaged before the project was completed. Proper measures should have been implemented to prevent the fence from being damaged such as adequate patrolling so that the DPWI does not incur unnecessary costs in repairing it. The Caesar Park in Cape Town has better fences than the Beitbridge border fence. An independent audit is welcomed, however this measure needs to be extended to other matters such as the quarantine facilities and other products supplied and services rendered to the DPWI. Mr van Staden previously told the Minister that she is shifting the blame to provincial departments. The DPWI swindling and squandering money during the pandemic is extremely worrying. When asked if the Minister awarded COVID19-related tenders without following standard procedures, she stated that the DPWI had indeed deviated from the standard procedures in awarding tenders. The list of deviations includes the border fence project. Procurement that did not follow the standard tender procedure amounts to R80 million. How will this money be recovered? The Act that allows the deviation from the normal procedures has been grossly exploited which has resulted in extensive corruption. The Minister seems to have no control over the Department’s spending and must be held accountable for the Beitbridge border fence project, the quarantine facilities and other instances where deviations have resulted in corruption. Also, it appears that the Department prefers doing business with corrupt companies that loot the government, such as Crocia Events, which has previously been found to have overcharged the government for state funerals. The Better Life Index states the average cost of a funeral to be R26 000, yet the Department spends R45 million on one funeral alone. People need to go to jail for looting the DPWI’s funds, and as the Head of the Department, the Minister must be held accountable.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) stated that the Department has been in the media for negative reasons since 2009. The ADG has mapped out the way things will happen going forward, however this was previously mentioned by the DG and the DG before that. Challenges that the Department has faced, such as the Nkandla scandal, should have been a learning experience for current officials. The meeting in April regarding the Beitbridge border fence project established that daily reports were being given to the Department, and that everything was on track. So the findings being reported in the current meeting is disappointing. Have criminal charges been laid against the officials that are going through disciplinary processes? Please may the case numbers be furnished to the Committee for the Principle Agent and the Contractor? The ADG refers to the Disaster Management Act of 2002 and the Public Management Finance Act (PMFA) section 64 as the provisions used for the Beitbridge project, please may this be clarified? Why did the Department fail to check market prices, instead merely relying upon one company?
Mr W Thring (ACDP) said that spending an excess of R50 million on funerals only to turn around and give people who have lost their income due to COVID19 R350 is scandalous. He suggested that a cap be created for the spending of state funerals so that officials do not put their hands in the public purse. The President put a cap of R2 million for his inauguration. The Beitbridge saga has shown several procedural errors within the Department. What consequence management steps have been taken? What measures will be put in place to ensure that officials who are found guilty during their disciplinary process will not be redeployed to another department? There are officials who have resigned before the disciplinary process, the DPWI needs to ensure that these individuals are still held accountable. The Committee should receive all the initial reports for the Beitbridge border fence project.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) commended the Department for its attempts to expose and eradicate corruption. It seems like there was no feasibility study for the Beitbridge border fence project considering that within eight days it had extensive damage. The feasibility study would have determined if the fence was suitable, let alone the corruption that has occurred as well. Putting up the fence has been a waste of public funds. Mr Mathebula said that in the suspension of the DG, it is reported that there was communication from the DG implicating the Minister for intervening in the procurement process. Is this true? According to the Minister’s spokesperson, the Minister recommended the company to the DG. There should be criminal charges laid against any official that has been alleged to be involved in corruption it should not be a case where only some cases are reported to law enforcement.
Mr T Mashele (ANC) asked the Minister who sanctioned the investigation into the DG and when was it concluded? The Minister needs to be honest with the Committee, what was the directive the Minister gave to the officials regarding the Beitbridge border fence project? Were the officials tasked with appointing the contractor or to expand the scope of work for the contractor? What role did the Minister play in terms of monitoring the project on a daily basis? The Minister has a technical advisor who should have the know-how of these activities. Given the contextual background, there is a contradiction in terms of the legislation that was used for the directive given for the project. As a custodian of the legislation, the Minister gave wrongful instruction. The Minister has cleared herself of any wrongdoing in terms of the border fence project. But from the onset, the Minister used the Disaster Management Act as the basis of the directives instead of the PFMA. The 14 officials subjected to the disciplinary process were acting from the directives given by the Minister, yet she has been cleared from accountability. The Committee should perform an oversight visit to the Beitbridge border fence. Did the DPWI institute security measures in terms of manning the fence?
Co-Chairperson Mmoiemang said the reports should be used as a basis of implementing resolutions in terms of bridging the gaps and closing the weaknesses identified from the various reports that have been compiled. He echoed the President’s sentiment that profiting from a National Disaster is a particularly heinous act especially considering that people are losing their lives. People that have been exposed as fraudulent need to experience the full wrath of the law and criminal charges must be brought against them. There is no doubt that the DPWI has set a basis for corrupt activities being exposed.
Chairperson Ntobongwana stated that the Joint Committee was concerned about the amount being spent on the Beitbridge project. However, the DPWI assured the Committee that monitoring, and all necessary measures, were in place. Considering what has come about, the Minister needs to clean up the Department. The Committee will not play around and will not hesitate to come directly to the Minister should these problems persist. Have officials already being taken for disciplinary action or is it still going to happen? Criminal charges must be laid against the 14 officials and the contractor for the border fence must be blacklisted from all government tenders. The expenditure for state funerals needs to be capped; the R45 million spent on Mr Andrew Mlangeni’s funeral during lockdown does not make sense.
Mr Fazel stated that the tribunal is a setting that is similar to a court. The Department is required to present evidence to the tribunal. The Beitbridge border fence project does not meet the requirements in accordance with the procurement framework, and thus the Department wants the tribunal to determine that the contract was invalid. This will enable the DPWI to only pay for what value it received. Where there was no value received, claims will be put against those companies for restitution and it will ensure that there is no fruitless and wasteful expenditure for this contract.
The cost of PWC was R900 000 for the investigation into state funerals. The SIU service in the investigation of the Beitbridge border fence project is estimated at R200 000, however this is not the final amount. The SIU did not perform an investigation but simply provided things to aid the investigation.
The removal of businesses such as Crocia Events and others, from the state database is difficult as the Department has to follow due processes. The Department needs to engage with the companies regarding why they believe they should not be restricted from doing business with the government, as well as the administrative justice processes. There is a “restrictive committee” within the Department which is responsible for processing the information which then goes to National Treasury where it is determined whether they should be removed from the government’s tender database. This is why the company was allowed to bid for the particular funeral; they were selected based on the fact that they were the cheapest service provider. The Department is prioritising that companies’ restrictive committee processes be finalised.
The contractor for the Beitbridge project and the Principle Agent have a number of projects with the Department that are currently underway. The contractor and Principle Agent will be monitored closely and the other contracts which they have obtained are being investigated to determine if it was awarded fairly.
The Department was exploited in 2016 and it is being investigated. There are two other companies that were involved as they were present at the site on 17 March and were given the impression that they would perform a role in the construction process. However, they were excluded. There were other companies involved but they were not allowed to participate fully, for example they could not bid or provide quotations. This matter has been reported to the Council for the Built Environment (CBE).
The recommendation for criminal charges to be brought against individuals from the particular companies is underway. There is at least one employee against whom criminal charges are being considered; there may be additional employees charged but it is pending the current investigations.
The enabling provision that guided the Minister was section 27.2 of the Disaster Management Act which the Minister of COGTA can evoke. However, the Minister of COGTA issued a mandate stating the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure can issue such a directive.
The 14 officials that are due to undergo disciplinary action have not been restricted from finding employment in other Departments as the disciplinary processes have not yet been finalised. Following the outcomes of the disciplinary processes, such action may be taken.
The procurement form is what is called a negotiated process which means that the Department only deals with one supplier. A negotiated process only occurs when there is a sole supplier such as in a case where a particular product is required, and the supplier is the original supplier. This, however, was not the case as there were other potential suppliers. So the negotiation process was not appropriate.
The restriction of suppliers involved in the inflation of funeral prices is underway. The investigation into the R36 million that was spent on one funeral found that only 15% of the payments were contractually compliant. The problem lays primarily with the Department and how it manages state funerals. Capping funeral budgets is the way forward.
There was no feasibility study that was conducted for the Beitbridge border fence project. Such a study would have provided information about the type of fence necessary for quality and height as well as the need for sensor equipment and response mechanisms with the SANDF and SAPS. Although there was no feasibility study for this project, there was a site clearance for 700kms as a whole. There were certain standards that were determined for the fence such as what would be appropriate for a borderline project.
The Department is working closely with law enforcement agencies in bringing criminal charges to people found guilty of corruption. There is a weakness in the Department’s system; it has made about 40 referrals in relation to corruption and illegality. There is a low record of successful prosecution and a poor turnaround making it to court. The Department is working more closely with law enforcement to change this.
Mr Clive Mtshisa, DDG: Corporate Services, DPWI, stated that there are plans for cases being handed over to corporate services. Formal letters have been handed in on 17 August 2020. To avoid unnecessary costs, it is being determined if cases need to be handled internally or outside of the Department. A team from the internal legal department has formed and will be responsible for running these cases. It will ensure that there is sufficient evidence for the cases to have reasonable prospects of success.
The Minister stated that it is the role and responsibility of the DG to drive disciplinary processes as far as it concerns officials within the Department. The role and responsibility of the Minister is to follow due process only as it relates to the DG. The Minister appeals to the Committee, to allow the investigations and processes to be concluded after which the Department will then report back to the Committee. The Department does not want to be in breach of the rights of those implicated.
It is sad that the state funerals that took place in 2018 are only being dealt with now. The Department still needs to consider the funerals that took place in 2019 as well. There is a process underway by the DG in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, who wrote to the Department’s DG regarding the inputs into the view of the funeral policy. The Department is awaiting the draft policy to come to cabinet for further consideration and approval. While the policy is in review, interim measures are being utilised. The Department is responsible for providing infrastructure for state funerals such as marquees, chairs and carpets. For this reason, it would be better that the Department procure its own infrastructure rather than going out to buy.
The Minister will present the matter of Crocia Events being appointed as a service provider for the funeral of Mr Andrew Mlangeni detailing the entire procurement process to SCOPA. The information tabled before SCOPA can be made available to the Committee as well. The Minister stated that the names of the legends and heroes of South Africa are sadly being brought into allegations of corruption. A previous report to SCOPA provided a case number that was laid at the Pretoria Police Station against Crocia Events and the Department is awaiting this to be finalised.
The Minister stated that she will be the first to be held accountable under the authority of Parliament regarding the Beitbridge border fence project. She stated that she respects the separation of powers and is in favour of building a country where everyone is equal before the law and respects the rule of law. The Committee needs to consider the provisions of the Constitution and the PFMA section 38 which spells out the roles and responsibilities of the accounting officers when it comes to procurement processes. Section 64 of the PMFA spells out the role and responsibility of the Executive Authority. Section 85 of the Constitution spells out the role of the Executive Authority. Certainly, the Executive Authorities that are in breach of any provision within legislation can be tested and held to account. How accountability is approached is what matters. The Minister stated that she will subject herself to any process in terms of accountability using the various pieces of legislation.
Since June 2019, there were various systems that were put in place to detect corruption within the Department. Perhaps some systems are not effective or not being implemented however, an outside independent company has been appointed by the Department to do due diligence for all big tenders. Consequence and contract management has been introduced, this happens after the fact thus, the new Audit Amendment Act of April 2019 needs to be considered. The AG has the right to issue a debt certificate to any official that has been found to have signed that particular document. There are legislative frameworks for corruption; it is now a matter of subjecting these allegations to the legislation. The President has instructed the AG to do a live audit of all the procurements that occurred during COVID19 which the DPWI welcomes. It has given the list of companies from whom it has procured PPE. The Beitbridge border fence is also a part of these investigations. The Department looks forward to the conclusion of these investigations.
The Minister stated that she is willing to open up her banking accounts for scrutiny to prove that she has not benefitted from any forms of corruption. She welcomes being held accountable in accordance with the legislation. A Minister is required to monitor procurement but should not interfere in procurement. However, a Minister may intervene if things are going wrong. The Minister made an intervention in the Beitbridge project when she saw that the Department was not getting value for money. She requested that the Department’s internal anti-corruption unit and AG investigate the matter. She agrees that people found guilty of corruption must go to jail.
In the last interaction the Minister had with the AG regarding the quarantine sites that are being audited, it was said that the AG will report back to the President during the month of September. She assured the Committee that she will always take the Committee seriously. When questions are posed to the Minister regarding procurement, she needs to source information from the Department. This affects the written responses to the Committee’s questions.
The DPWI had to identify quarantine and self-isolation sites in all 44 districts and eight metros. This information was made available to the Department of Health (DoH). The DPWI met on a daily basis and the task team of the PICC was involved. A master list was created of guesthouses, hotels and other establishments that could be used as a quarantine site. They were then assessed and approved by the DoH. The list has been made available. The daily meetings were to perform monitoring and the minutes from these meetings can be made available.
The projection for the funeral of Mr Mlangeni was projected to cost R150 000, per the quotations. This is thus subject to an investigation. There are no plans to start a state-owned construction company. The DPWI is bound by the PFMA which states there must be a preferential procurement with a predilection for black persons, youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Ms Siwisa asked if the PFMA that prevents the Department from starting a construction company, has been applied to establish Infrastructure South Africa. There are rumours that it will be taking over the IDT. Ms Siwisa emphasised the need for the construction company to do away with tenders and the looting of public funds.
Mr Mathebula said that the Act for preventing and combating corrupt activities states clearly that a commission of corruption is not only receiving benefits but even the attempt to commit a corrupt act is also determined to be corruption. As it has been confirmed by the Minister’s Spokesperson that the Minister made a recommendation to the DG, which was not appointed, however the recommendation is still corrupt. Is the Minister willing to step down to show that she is indeed willing to end corruption? Or is she willing to fire the spokesperson for misrepresenting her?
Mr Rayi thanked the Minister for her commitment to regularly brief the Committees on the progress of the DPWI on ongoing investigations. He asked that the documents be provided to the Committee for completed disciplinary cases.
Ms Hicklin echoed Mr Mathebula’s statement that corruption does not only refer to an exchange of finances, but intention is also an important factor.
Mr Dangor asked why companies such as Denel were not invited to do smart fencing with drones and other security measures for a smarter control of the borders?
Mr van Staden stated that he is glad to hear that there are investigations happening around the quarantine and private facilities. Actions must be taken, and people must be sent to jail.
Mr Mashele asked about monitoring in relation to the Ministers role in the monitoring process in the Beitbridge project? What were the implications of the Minister issuing a directive according to section 27 instead of section 64? Does the Minister believe it is correct for her to sanction an investigation that clears her name?
Minister’s follow-up response
The Minister said that she is unsure of the interpretation of the Prevention of Corruption Act however, she will look into it. Legislation may be interpreted differently from person-to-person, so it needs to be determined by the courts.
She said that all the reports mentioned will be submitted to the Committee once the allegations have been tested. She does not want to violate the rights of those accused.
There is a new border authority that is being established in terms of new legislation; an agency will be set up. The Department needs to align existing infrastructure projects from all the borders of the country to first discuss that with the new border authority and new legislation.
The Minister said that there are different methods of monitoring. The executive and the Minister receive monthly reports from the administration and accounting officer. Within seven days, the Department has to report to the National Treasury. These reports are monitored by the Minister as per the roles and responsibilities stipulated in legislation. In these cases, the Minister may issue remedial measures if need be and this is considered monitoring.
The Minister emphasised that she is not involved in any corruption in the Beitbridge project, and those that accuse her should come forward with evidence. Moreover, she is willing to avail her bank accounts for scrutiny. She will protect her reputation with the full might of the law and her constitutional rights. There will also be consequences for people that accuse people of being corrupt but have no evidence.
The DG followed due process in supply-chain management. A bid was put out for quotations as well as the tender. Finally, nobody was awarded the tender.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and officials for their presentation and response to the Committees questions. She thanked the Committee for its engagement.
The meeting was adjourned
- Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI): Precautionary Suspension of the Director-General
- DPWI: Emergency Procurement and Implementation ofthe 40km Borderline Infrastructure Project between the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe
- Media Statement: Public Works Committees Call for Systems that Prevent Corruption and Malpractice
Ntobongwana, Ms N
Boshoff, Ms SH
Brauteseth, Mr TJ
Dangor, Mr M
De Lille, Ms P
Graham, Ms SJ
Hicklin, Ms MB
Mashele, Mr TV
Mathebula, Mr EF
Mathevula, Ms B
Mjobo, Ms LN
Mmoiemang, Mr MK
Nxumalo, Mr MN
Rayi, Mr M
Siwisa, Ms AM
Thring, Mr WM
Van Schalkwyk, Ms SR
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