02 Dec 2020: Implementation of Beitbridge and Jersey Barrier oversight report recommendations; with Minister
ATC201014: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on an Oversight Visit to Beitbridge, dated 7 October 2020
ATC201021: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on an Oversight visit to The Jersey Barrier Wall (Kosi Bay Rsa/Mozambique Borderline, Kwazulu-Natal), Dated 21 October 2020
ATC210223: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on an Oversight Visit to the Parliamentary Villages (Acacia And Pelican Parks), dated17 February 2021
In this virtual meeting, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure presented three progress reports relating to the Beitbridge Border Fence, Jersey Barrier Project and Parliamentary Village. A presentation was also made on the Prestige Portfolio Mandate.
On the Beitbridge Border Fence, Members were informed about the various disciplinary processes and charges brought before the eleven officials. Focus was given to the civil recommendations, prosecution and systematic responses to the misconduct. Feedback was given on the engagement with the Department of Defence regarding the interim securing the fence. The medium to long term solution relating to the maintenance of the fence was presented.
On the Jersey Barrier Project, the Department highlighted the development of the memorandum of agreement with the KwaZulu Natal Department of Public Transport as well as the associated expenditure.
On the Parliamentary Villages, Members were told about the plans to address the the non-rehabilitation of the grounds, the vandalism of property, measures to improve connectivity as well as associated challenges.
The Prestige Portfolio presentation summarized the Unit’s mandate, responsibilities, clients and projects under construction or in planning.
The Committee was dissatisfied that the Department had not presented progress reports relating to the Beitbridge Border Fence, Jersey Barrier Project and Parliamentary Villages as requested. Clarity was requested regarding the cost of the Jersey Barrier Project fence, as different figures were given at various times. The Committee expressed that the Department did not take them seriously as a Portfolio Committee specifically in terms of their oversight role. It was emphasised that the Prestige Portfolio could not present a list of projects without a proper expenditure and phasing plan. The Committee queried why the Broll contracts were delayed when the Department knew in advance that the contract was coming to an end. There was confusion regarding the disciplinary processes - the Committee requested clarity regarding the delays and whether suspensions had taken place. Clarity was requested in terms of the timelines relating to the disciplinary processes. The Committee encouraged the Minister and Deputy Minister to lead the Department, particularly with respect to addressing the delays. The Department as urged to utltise its professionals rather than relying upon external consultants.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone. She noted several apologies, including that of the Minister. Condolences were noted in respect of the loss of the Minister’s husband.
Implementation progress of oversight report recommendations: Beitbridge Border Fence
Mr Imtiaz Fazel, Acting Director General, DPWI, presented the progress relating to the recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee relating to the Beitbridge Border Fence. The various disciplinary processes were presented and the medium to long terms solutions relating to the maintenance of the fence was outlined.
Two of the thirteen implicated officials were employed in terms of section 12 and 12A of the Public Service Act 1994. In this regard, their disciplinary processes are not being dealt with by the Department. The disciplinary action against the Director-General is being managed by the Presidency while the disciplinary action against the Special Advisor was being managed by the State Attorney on behalf of the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure.
On 9 September 2020, Minister De Lille wrote to the Presidency, informing them of the findings and recommendations of the Beitbridge Border Fence investigation. The Presidency acknowledged receipt of the letter on the same day. The now late Minister Mthembu wrote to the Director-General Adv Sam Vukela on 16 October 2020 informing him of supplementary charges of misconduct relating to the Beitbridge Border Fence to be added to his existing charge sheet. The Minister served a letter to her Advisor, Ms. Whitehead, in September 2020 informing her of the intended charges following the findings of the Beitbridge Border Fence report. Ms Whitehead acknowledged receipt of the letter. The Minister requested the State Attorney to appoint the Initiator and Chairperson for the ensuing disciplinary process. An Initiator and Chairperson were appointed by the State Attorney. The Initiator has prepared draft charges against Ms. Whitehead. The matter was ongoing.
Notice of provisional charges were issued to the eleven implicated officials employed in terms of section 8 of the PSA, requesting written representations as to why they should not be charged. All implicated officials requested further particulars in the form of additional information and documentation in order to enable them to make representations to the Department and were provided with the relevant documentation outlining the role played by each of them. The officials were further given seven working days to provide the representations to the Department. All the officials except one have complied and submitted their respective representations. The Department has considered the officials’ written representations and has since served the officials with the final charges and the notice of the hearings. The disciplinary hearings against the 11 implicated officials would take place on the 8 March 2021.
On 17 November 2020, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) instituted legal action against Caledon River Properties (Pty) Ltd t/a Magwa and Profteam CC with the Special Tribunal under case number GP17/2020. The main relief sought in the application is a declaration of invalidity of the contract concluded between DPWI and the respondents. The application is opposed and the matter has been enrolled to argue jurisdiction which was raised as a point in limine. The matter was heard on Tuesday 26 January 2021 in the Special Tribunal. The parties were awaiting the court judgment. Summons for losses and/or damages suffered will be issued once the Special Tribunal declares the contract invalid.
On 28 September 2020, the SIU referred evidence which points to the commission of an offence by the respondents and its directors to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The National Director of Public Prosecutions referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Polokwane. The SIU has requested that the matter be transferred back to Pretoria since the crime took place in Pretoria. The matter was subsequently transferred back to the National Director of Public Prosecutions in Pretoria for prosecution. The NPA is presently considering the evidence and will shortly advise on its decision to prosecute.
DPWI concluded an MOU with the National School of Government on 18 December 2020 to facilitate training courses for personnel development within Governance, Administration and in particular, Supply Chain Management (SCM).
The Professional Service branch in DPWI is developing a Training Strategy to be approved by the Accounting Officer by 28 February 2021. The strategy aims at professionalizing not only SCM officials, but all officials in the value chain of core infrastructure delivery and property management functions of the Department. This includes training on, amongst other areas: SCM processes, Scope management, Regulatory Framework, Bid Evaluation, Bill of Quantities, Finance, Contract Management, Internal Audit, Project Administration etc.
The targeted number of beneficiaries to participate in the Professionalisation Programme are:
- As part of enhancing efficiencies and compliance within the core infrastructure delivery and property management functions of the Department, the implementation and rollout of the Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS) is underway. In this regard, a new Operating Model, associated business processes and 30 SOPs have been developed in full alignment and compliance with the IDMS and Framework for Infrastructure Delivery and Procurement Management (FIDPM). All material has been made available on a single repository on DPWI servers with Year Zero (setup year) to commence on 1 April 2021.
- As part of the IDMS implementation, SCM processes and SOPs have been developed in line with the FIDPM which primarily focuses on governance decision-making points as well as alignment and functions to support good management of infrastructure procurement and delivery.
Engagement with the Department of Defence (DoD) to secure fence
- The memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to clarify roles and responsibilities between DPWI and the Department of Defence (DoD) is in draft. The Department engaged the DoD on 11 December 2020. The matter has been placed on the agenda of the JCPS cluster meeting on the 25th February of 2021 to re-enforce the roles and responsibilities and for the cluster to support an overall holistic approach to deal with the broader borderline security and management.
- Further to the MoU, DPWI has engaged DOD to increase their presence on the borderline in terms of their constitutional obligation in terms of Section 200 (2) of the Constitution and to optimally perform in accordance with their mandate of border management and security.
- An engagement also transpired with the Department of Home Affairs on 12 February 2021 to discuss the role of DPWI in the Border Management Authority.
- Minister De Lille met with Minister Mapisa-Nqakula (MOD) on 26 January 2021 to discuss closer cooperation between DPWI, the DoD and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and agreed that DPWI will issue a Request for Information on border management solutions.
Beitbridge medium to long term solution
The Beitbridge border fence will be absorbed into the integrated border infrastructure solution wherein, planning for the medium to long term infrastructure solution for integrated borderline fencing and patrol roads has commenced. The DPWI will issue a Request for Information no later than the end of March 2021, to establish the availability of best practice solutions on the market.
Development progress of the MOA with KZN DOT: Jersey Barrier Project
The presentation focused on progress relating to the development of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Transport (DOT).
The MoA entails the following:
- Records the terms and conditions which govern the cooperation between the DPWI, the KZN Office of the Premier and the KZN DOT to regularise the construction of Phase 1 of the barrier wall in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
- Payment of an amount not exceeding R50 million by the DPWI to the KZN DOT for the construction of the modified barrier wall for Phase 1 is conditional upon the following events occurring:-
- The DPWI will finalise an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Phase A (54km) of its Borderline Infrastructure Solution that addresses the following: Bio-diversity Off-Set Plan and Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) as the requirements of the EIA authorisation. No construction activities should take place until all EIA requirements are met. The appointed DPWI consultants for site clearance processes will work with the KZN DOT consultants to finalise the EIA and get final EIA authorisation as well as approval of the EMPr and the appointment of an Environmental Control Officer by the DPWI.
-The outstanding Permission to Occupy and Build (PTOB) requirements (lease registration) from Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) for the registration of the 54km servitude along ITB land, must be concluded before continuing with construction activities along the affected borderline from Kosi Bay to Ndumo Game Reserve geographical areas;
RSA Swaziland & Mozambique: Jersey Barrier 54km
DPWI was the applicant and holder of the Environmental Authorisation (EA) - DEA 14/12/16/3/31/1981 - for the Planning & Design for the Maintenance and/or Upgrade of the Patrol Roads and Fencing on the Borders between RSA, Swaziland & Mozambique as part of the long term borderline infrastructure solution. The Biodiversity Offset Plan Report and Environmental Management Plan Report were submitted to DEFF in December 2020 for consideration and approval. Site meeting between DEFF and DPWI is scheduled for February/ March 2021. Provisional Site Clearance Certificate issued to allow planning and design to commence (Sketch-plan).
Phase 1: Pre-planning & town planning
(Start date: 2016. End date: June 2021) 4 months to completion
- This included the process of site identification, securing of ownership, and the establishment of appropriate land use right/s, compliance with relevant legislation and the removal of encumbrances / restrictions that may restrict development or the use of a property
- Site clearance to meet legislative and environmental requirements
- Site due Diligence
- Determine land availability and suitability for construction
Phase 1b: Request for information
To further support the planning and design phase a Request for Information (RFI) will be issued in March 2021 to engage the market on different types of border fence and security solutions available that will support and enhance the specification process with DOD as this will be based on best practice fence and ICT solutions. The RFI will also support the design and specification development and budget request process as well as the tender process. Agrement SA has not provided an alternative construction material to reduce costs and enhance efficiencies. The engagement is on-going.
Phase 2: Planning for the upgrade and redevelopment of borderline fences
(Scheduled Start Date: June 2021. End Date: Feb 2023) - 18 to 24 months.
- Design and Specification Development
- Costing of Specifications and Designs
- Approval of specification by user – ( Department of Defence)
- Funding and budget confirmation – Engagement with ISA for project preparation funding/Bankable SIDS Project
Phase 3: Tender processes and construction of fences
(Scheduled Start Date: May 2023 – End Date : June 2028 ) 3 to 5 years
(Project programme for phases 1-3 appended)
Response to Oversight Report Recommendations: Parliamentary Villages
Mr Mzwandile Sazona, Chief Director: Prestige Portfolio, DPWI, presented the responses to the recommendations of the Portfolio Committee following an oversight visit on 24 November 2020.
Response to request for clarity: non-rehabilitation of Parliamentary Village grounds
The Department was requested to submit a report to clarify what influenced the non-rehabilitation of the grounds at the Parliamentary Villages.
- The Facilities Management contract came to an end on 18 November 2020, where under the horticulture component for the Parliamentary Villages was covered.
- DPW has procured a temporary service provider to provide horticultural services at the Parliamentary Villages until the new Facilities Management contractor has been appointed.
- The contracted service provider to perform the interim horticulture services at the Parliamentary Villages, however, is awaiting SSA clearance before they can commence working on site. The clearance application was received by DPW Regional Security Office on 14 January 2021 and subsequently submitted to SSA on 20 January 2021.
- Intervention measures are being pursued between DPW Security and Parliament with the State Security Agency (SSA) in respect of the outstanding security clearance matters.
- As an interim measure DPW’s in-house horticulture section is currently attending to Acacia Park three times per week to perform horticultural duties until the appointed contractor is cleared / allowed access to site to commence work.
- DPW’s in-house horticulture section has manpower challenges as well as lack of machinery to perform their duties optimally.
- The delay in security clearance for contractors poses a huge challenge, as the interim contractor has been appointed, however, due to clearance challenges, cannot access site as yet to perform duties.
Sessional officials residing in the Parliamentary Villages
There was a total of 164 Sessional Official residents in the three Parliamentary Villages, ie. 141 Sessional Official residents in Acacia Park Parliamentary Village; 3 residents in Laboria Park Parliamentary Village and 20 residents in Pelican Park Parliamentary Village. The rental payable by Sessional Officials ranges from R162.38 (bachelor) to R192.38 (2 bedroom), dependent on the size of residences occupied. See attached annexure A, the list of all Sessional Officials occupying residences in the three Parliamentary Villages, the Departments that they are declared by and the rental charged for occupancy.
Response to vandalism of property
- The Department will ensure that tenants occupying a residence sign acceptance of the condition of the unit and the inventory of the Departmental assets. In addition, when a Member reports matters to the office or when a Member vacates the residence, upon inspection, defects / negligence are recorded and costed, whereafter a Member will be notified in writing of the damage and the cost incurred to the state, to be recovered from the MP.
- The challenge is that the Department usually only becomes aware of the defects / negligence once the MP has vacated or vacates the residence, as in most cases, Members do not report such incidences and access to residences can be problematic.
- The Department will utilise the annual asset verification process to identify such defects / negligence, record same and institute a recovery process from the MP.
The matter of poor WiFi is being addressed by Parliament with the cellphone service providers. The Department will further engage Parliament on the issue of connectivity as Parliament is responsible for provision of data to Members of Parliament. Concrete timelines will be provided after the meeting with Parliament.
Prestige Portfolio Presentation
Prestige Property Management Unit’s Mandate
- Provision and management of office and residential accommodation and maintenance (both technical and soft services) thereof (including provisioning and maintenance of movable assets e.g. furniture and related items) to Prestige Clients
- Ensuring relevant stop orders, payment arrangements and lease agreements are in place
- Facilitation of municipal services and rates with appropriate Property Section and Finance Revenue and Debt Section
- Facilitate payment of levies for state owned properties (as applicable), including insurance and curatorship facilitation for Groote Schuur House
- Manage and support planned and unplanned state / official events approved and directed by the Presidency through provision of infrastructure and related services
- Management of Union Buildings South Lawns for purposes of event management
- Provision and maintenance of security measures (as determined by SAPS / Defence Force as applicable )
- In state-owned residences
- For ministerial offices
- In special facilities including Parliamentary Precinct, Union Buildings, VVIP at Waterkloof Airforce base, Former Presidents Offices and Residences, Presidential Guest House
The Constitution makes Public Works a Functional Area of Concurrent National and Provincial Legislative Competence. In pursuit of its mandate, the DPWI also has to observe the principles of good governance and intergovernmental relations as provided for in Section 41 of the Constitution.
The service provided in respect of the Constitutional mandate includes the oversight of the Provinces’ execution of the Public Works’ function. It provides for the provision of residential and office accommodation and related services to:
- Members of Cabinet
- The Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice (Due to former Ministerial Handbook)
- Presiding Officers (Due to former Ministerial Handbook)
- Provision of Security measures for Justice Presidents of the Provincial Divisions
Services mandated to perform
Requires the DPWI to provide prestige accommodation for:
- Members or individuals from continental structures or bodies,
- The Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, and
- The Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice
- Residences to the guests of the President of the Republic and other members of the multilateral organisations as would be determined by the Executive from time to time
- Provides for the provision of the following for former presidents and deputy presidents:
- Office accommodation
- Static security upgrades and maintenance
- Maintenance of offices
- Security measures and maintenance thereof
Who are our clients:
- The President, Deputy President and the Presidency
- The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly (Exception has been made as they are not part pf the new Guide for Members of the Executive)
- Parliament (As an institution)
- The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders
- Members or individuals from continental structures or bodies
- The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP
- Members of Parliament
- Cabinet/ Ministers and Deputy Ministers
- The Chief Justice and The Deputy Chief Justice
- Former Presidents and Deputy Presidents
- The Justice Presidents of the Provincial Divisions
- The Directors General (linked to Parliamentary responsibilities – Cape Town)
- Sessional officials (linked to Parliamentary responsibilities – Cape Town)
- Eminent Persons (Declared by an executive)
- Household managers
- Support staff that cannot be separated from the principal
- VIP protection members
- PMU (presidential medical unit)
- Special dispensation as approved by an executive, e.g. Public protector (special arrangement)
- Executive Mayors
- Party political support staff
- Traditional leaders
- Public works staff members
Current Projects in Pretoria
(P): Planning; (C): Construction
- Upgrade of Union Building (P)
- Construction of the command centre (P)
- Maintenance term contracts for Ministerial houses (P)
- Security measures at FSI building (P)
- Construction of roads (P)
- Construction of security gate 1 and 2 at Bryntirion Estate (P).
- Facilities management contract at Union Building (C)
Current Projects in Cape Town
- NCOP project (C)
- 6th Floor project (Complete)
- Lift modernisation project (C)
- Stalplein Granite project (C)
- 100 Plein street project (C)
- Cape Stores project (Complete)
- Parliament kitchens Project (P)
- MP Villages renovations project (C)
- Security Enhancement project (P)
- Appointment of FM contract for Residential accommodation (P)
- Appointment of FM contract for Office accommodation (P)
- GSE External Works Project (C)
- Security measures at Groote Schuur Estate (P)
- Demolition and construction of new MP units (P)
Ms A Siwisa (EFF) stated that the Beitbridge Report was the same as the previous report the Committee received on the matter. She noted that the Department had included new information that came to light however it was not a progress report. In the presentation it was stated that the Chairperson of the Restriction Committee and Authority was one of the members who was charged. Why was this not picked up in the preparation of the first report? Every time the Department presented, something new came up. The Committee had expected to get an update on the disciplinary processes underway and the way forward. In the previous meeting with the Department the Committee was told that things were halted because the incorrect procedures had been followed. She had expected the Department to update the Committee. In the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) report it was stated that ‘they were going to repair the fence, that the dimensions were not correct.’ Nothing was said about this matter in the presentation.
She referred to the Prestige Portfolio presentation, the Committee could not be given a list of where Prestige projects were without a proper expenditure and phasing plan. She felt the Committee was not taken seriously by the Department. If they were to ask the Department for detail regarding the project phases, the Committee would be told that it would be communicated by email – but the Committee would never receive it.
The Department knew that the Broll contracts were coming to an end, why was there no proper tender process? Why was the process not started to get a new contract? It seemed as If people in those villages were living in a ‘ghost town.’ It seemed as if the Department operated spontaneously.
This meeting should not have even taken place. She was disappointed that the Department presented reports that were received the last time with the addition of new information. In the presentation there was mention that Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) was going to be roped in. Is ISA already in place and under whose schedule are they working? She requested clarity regarding the above matters and transparency from the Department.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) stated that the previous time they received a report in relation to the Beitbridge Border, they were told that there were 11 officials suspended. This presentation and report stated that one of the officials, who was alleged to have been involved in the corruption, was part of RCE. Is it true that they are suspended officials who took part in the alleged corruption? If it was so, why was this official still active in the Department? If this member was not suspended, if others had been, when would this official be suspended?
He referred to the Acting Director General’s mention that the matter would be dealt with the following month. It had not specified how long the process would take. Courts gave dates of trials, why was there no start and end time indicated for the hearing/s. The suspension of the officials had a negative impact on service delivery of the Department. The Department was affected by it. Either, there were people acting in their positions, who may not have the same authority as a full time appointment or those positions were vacant and work was not being done. The Committee needed timeframes form the Department. This needed to be dealt with speedily so that the Department could function effectively.
He had heard that the cases were first opened in Polokwane and then moved to Pretoria as the court jurisdiction on the matter was based there. Both courts had jurisdiction; the theft of the money took place in Pretoria but the fence (that was not fit for purpose) was in Polokwane. It was the responsibility of the Acting Director General to pressurise the matter to be fast tracked to ensure that they got to understand what happened. They were talking about a criminal matter, which should be speedily dealt with.
He was worried about the situation in Acacia Park. There was no refuse removal and the yards were dirty. He agreed that it was known in advance that the contracts would expire. The officials were not elected, they were appointed. There was no excuse whatsoever as to why they had not acted early enough to address the matters.
Ms M Hicklin (DA) directed her statement to the Minister in absentia. It was time she took responsibility for running her Department. She needed to take responsibility for the messes her Department was making and take responsibility for the requests, details, job opportunities, work progress, awarding of contracts that was taking place ‘under her watch.’ She stated that the Minister could not blame officials for ‘her inefficiencies.’ It was time to take responsibility and run the Department.
The Committee was bombarded with a whole host of facts which were just delays. There were ‘delays upon delays upon delays.’ She agreed that they should look at the Beitbridge Border Post debacle, ‘the washing line,’ the principle agent failed to comply and breached his fiduciary duties. A complaint was sent to the Council for the Built Environment (CBE). Surely, as a Department, they knew which entity to report maladministration to. The Committee had to wait from August to October 2020 before the complaint was referred to the correct entity, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). How was it possible that the officials did not know who to address a complaint to. Surely, that was the first thing one learnt? Was it another delay tactic?
The Broll contract that expired in November 2020 did not come as a surprise. Anyone who lived in Acacia Park knew the state they were dealing with. Refuse was collected, but sporadically. There was no maintenance. There should be services on site, such as a plumber. She reiterated that is time for the Minister to take responsibility for running the Department. The Minister was good at issuing instructions, like to Melissa Whitehead. Now the Minister needed to issue appropriate instructions to the rest of the Department and work with the rest of the Department not only with her office.
She expressed her disappointment regarding the presentation made. Residents signed acceptance letters when they went to the Public Work offices at the Parliamentary villages. She did not believe that those letters were signed when they first came into the village. She recommended that a member of DPWI accompany residents when they first moved in to their unit and go through the unit and conduct an inventory of issues seen. Once or twice a year an evaluation should be done, so that vandalism and issues could be identified within a year. They could not wait five years to say ‘you have wrecked a house,’ and then expect a member to pay up. The oversight should be done at consistently to ensure that the vandalism did not take place. The Minister needed to take responsibility and work with the Department as opposed to against it.
Mr T Mashele (ANC) stated that they were meant to receive progress reports on the Beitbridge Border, Jersey Barrier and Parliamentary Village in the meeting. The presentation simply showed the process of how things were being handled. Does this meeting serve the purpose which it was summoned to serve? He suggested that they should not shy away from issues. This particular Department, from time immemorial, proved that it did not take the Committee seriously. For example, when one looked at the Beitbridge report, which did not provide any progress report, the processes did not even indicate the proposed timeline dates that related to each stage. He referred to section A of the presentation, it stated that on the ninth September the Minister wrote to the Presidency regarding the 13 implicated officials and the letter was acknowledged the same day. On the 16 October, the late Minister wrote to the suspended Director General, it was not indicated whether there was an acknowledgement of receipt. He stated that the interesting one, was the one that did not have a date associated with it, given to Ms Whitehead. They were simply told that that letter was given in September 2020. There was no date. The Committee’s interest, when it requested a progress report, was to see how far the Department was. There was no way to see how far they had gotten, with the quality of the report presented, where dates were left out. Section B stated that the MoU would be signed – but this would likely happen at some point during the year as no exact date was assigned to that task. He referred to the item relating to the visit to the Parliamentary Village, there were no timeframes put to any of the recommendations and responses.
Their role as a Committee was to conduct oversight. They did not only conduct oversight when there was a visit; oversight was done on a constant basis. The members of the Committee came from different constituencies, when they had a progress report that stated that in one particular place there was ‘X' happening, and 10 percent or 20 percent progress was indicated, the individual members would be able to, in their spare time, go and see what was happening on the ground. But the Department was ‘hell-bent’ on continuously giving the Committee misleading information, such that the Committee was ‘disabled’ from undertaking their oversight responsibilities. He expressed that the Department had ‘undermined the Committee to the core’ by not meeting the Committees request to present a progress report. He suggested that Department should have been turned away from the meeting.
Last year, they were made to believe that there were officials that were suspended relating to the Beitbridge issue. Now, they found out that the officials had just been charged. The Committee was told that the officials would be appearing on 8 March 2021. Can one really summon all those people at the same time? Who would be going into the hearing at what time? Unless there was a blanket charge against all those involved through a disciplinary hearing process. He requested clarity on this. He requested that the Department should not continue to undermine the Committee by preventing them from conducting oversight, specifically by not taking the Committee’s requests seriously. They could not continue to handle the Department with ‘kid-gloves.’ The Committee needed answers to the actual questions they asked of the Department. He expressed that the Minister and Deputy Minister were not leading the Department. The problems in the Department could not be extended to the Committee. The Zondo Commission had highlighted the oversight responsibilities of Portfolio Committees. The Department could not pay ‘lip-service’ to the requests of the Portfolio Committee. The Department had not given the Committee a progress report. He suggested that another date should be given for the Department to come back and present a progress report.
Ms L Shabalala (ANC) agreed with the issues raised by the other Committee members. There was nothing that stopped the Department from communicating in advance of a meeting that they were not ready to present. With respect to the Procurement Plan, there were many projects that would be undertaken at the Parliamentary Villages and borders – how would the unemployed graduates be incorporated? She requested that the Committee be given a clear indication in the Procurement Plan and Projects Plan as to how the unemployed graduates would be accommodated. She requested that they also state how many jobs went to women and youth. They could not have ‘one male having all the millions’ whilst the Country was in the present economic situation and the policy directives were clear. The Procurement Plan would assist the Committee with the relevant timeframes and deadlines relating to advertising etc.
With respect to the maintenance of the Parliamentary Villages, she suggested that the property and associated damage needed to be covered by insurance. What would happen with the fence that was decommissioned? The Jersey Barrier issue in KZN was worse than the situation with Beitbridge. She requested clarity regarding updates from SCOPA. She requested that the Department liaise with the current Premier regarding the Jersey Barrier Project, as this was commissioned by the Premier and not the Department of Transport. The KZN Department of Transport only had an Acting Member of Executive Council (MEC). Would the Premier’s office take responsibility in relation to the Auditor General’s findings on the matter? The issue of the suspended officials, did it include the official that was involved in the illegal/unauthorised appointment? She requested clarity on that.
Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) stated that she was ‘a little bit puzzled.’ During the presentation the progress in relation to the MoU with the KZN Department of Transport was mentioned The Committee knew that the original amount that was agreed upon was R50 million. When the Committee conducted the oversight visit, they found that only eight kilometres was completed with a total value of approximately R92 million. This led to an estimated value of more than R10 million per kilometre – it was ‘screaming red flags.’ Although the Department had only committed to the R50 million, the facts at hand showed that something was wrong somewhere. What was being done to investigate how R10 million per kilometre was used in the Jersey Bay Barrier. What measures were put in place to rectify the situation? Was there was fraud and corruption there? She was unsure of the facts of what was actually happening in relation to the Jersey Bay Project. If need be, a proper investigation should be undertaken. They could not just ‘pretend that nothing was happening.’
In terms of Beitbridge, the Committee was told on 12 February 2021 that there was a meeting between Home Affairs. Clearly, discussions took place and resolutions were made at that meeting. She requested insight and updates regarding the resolutions. She had followed the meeting with SCOPA, where the Department engaged with it regarding Beitbridge. The Department told SCOPA that it thought that there were breaches that occurred. In the presentation however, the Department had stated that the fence was not fit for purpose, that a decision was taken not to repair the fence. It was a borderline fence, if they decided that they were going to go with a long-term solution, which would take approximately three to five years to complete, what would happen in the interim to secure the borderline? There were huge gaps in the borderline fence, which was a threat to national security. She suggested that the Department engage with the Department of Defence so as to increase the number of patrols in the interim.
When the Committee considered the progress of the renovations at the Parliamentary Villages, the Committee was originally told that the first phase would be concluded by the end of March 2021. She requested an indication of when, if it had been revised, the first phase would be completed. They also needed to know when the following phase would commence and the timeframe relating to it. In terms of connectivity in the Parliamentary Villages, it was mentioned that three service providers were engaged: Cell C, MTN and Vodacom. Many members were contracted with Telkom, they were also experiencing connectivity issues. What was being done in terms of Telkom? Should the members move from Telkom to other service providers? Was engagement taking place with Telkom in terms of their subscribers?
With respect to the Prestige Portfolio, the Department acknowledged that they had not provided detailed information to the Committee. The Committee should not need to ask for detailed information to be provided every time the Department presented to the Committee. The Department should know that when presenting reports or updates, detailed reports should be provided, even if in the form of annexures. The Department should not wait for the Committee to probe further. The Committee should have all the information at hand. She suggested that the Department should provide detailed information to the Committee within two weeks of the meeting underway. The Prestige presentation referred to updates and feedback from consultants that were being used. The Committee knew that within the Department there was a low expenditure in terms of compensation of employees, while there was a high unemployment rate. The Departments had not indicated in their quarterly reports about the professionals appointed in relation to Prestige. There could not be professionals ‘out there’ and the Department instead opted to use consultants. Were there no professional services available for them to use, was that why they were using consultants? If there were qualified professionals who could do the work, this should be reported in the next quarterly report, specifically how the Department was appointing professionals in the jobs that they used consultants.
Ms Hicklin asked a question relating to the findings of the Jersey Barrier wall. She referred to point 4.4.8 which stated that according to the report, R48 million had been utilised on the project and that was supposed to have been spent on three kilometres of the wall when in fact, 6.4 meters or 0.166 kilometres cost R48 million. Each module was 6.4 metres long, which meant that that R48 million was used to build 0.166 kilometres of the fence, whatever figure they were told it would cost to build the fence was inaccurate.
The Chairperson stated that the issue of Beitbridge should not be taken lightly by the Department. The Portfolio Committee raised flags from the start of the project, even though at the time they were not allowed to conduct an oversight visit. She addressed the Deputy Minister and Department, in saying that they should take South Africans in confidence. No one had formally sat in front of the Disciplinary Committee (DC), since the Beitbridge project first became news, the officials implicated were still at work. It told South Africans that the Department and Parliament were not serious about what they were doing. As the Portfolio conducting oversight of the Department, the delays needed to stop.
She brought up the issue of the Director General, Adv Sam Vukela, who was suspended sometime in 2020 and highlighted how long he had been on suspension. He had still not been formally charged. If he went to a court of law, did the Deputy Minister and Department have any grounds to stand on? This was what was being said by the public. The Head of Department of Public Works and Infrastructure in North West was suspended in 2018; they were now in 2021, that person had not seen a DC at any point and the government was paying him. She suggested that prompt action needed to be taken in the Department. If a SIU report pointed to people that needed to be charged, that needed to be done promptly. How long would the Beitbridge issue last? The delays gave the impression that they were not taking it seriously. She reiterated what Mr Mashele had said that what was presented was not what the Committee had expected from the report.
The Prestige Portfolio report needed to go back to the Department. The Committee wanted a detailed report. The Portfolio Committee needed to conduct oversight. The Department was not doing the Committee a ‘favour’ in presenting a report, this was part of the work of the Committee. The Committee needed to be able to engage with the reports. She concurred with Ms van Schalkwyk on the issue of Kosi Bay. She appreciated that the Department had finally, after a number of years, prepared the MoU. The issue about the amount was raising red flags again. Ms van Schalkwyk was correct to raise that issue. The amount was first R50 million, now it was indicated at around R82 million. It was escalating each day that was a red flag. If the Committee had not gone there, they would not have seen it. The Committee would visit the projects being handled by the Department – to expose the things that were not being done correctly. The Kosi Bay Jersey Barrier wall raised red flags – it needed to be followed up, it needed to be checked whether proper procurement procedures were followed.
Mr Fazel stated that he would deal upfront with the issue regarding the delays relating to the consequence management processes. The first issue was the disciplinary hearings. There were three different processes, the one dealt with the eleven officials being charged by the Department which was administered by the State Attorney. The second process was the Minister’s Advisor which was also being administered by the State Attorney. Thirdly the issue of the suspended Director General’s case was being administered by the Office of the President. There were then criminal processes which were in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). There would be civil recommendations when the matter was brought before the SIU Tribunal; that matter was subject to the processes of the tribunal and that particular court. Then there were the National Bodies, which at the moment were the CIDB and the Engineering Council. Finally, there was the Restriction Committee, which was an internal committee which operated autonomously in terms of the regulatory framework issued by Treasury. All of these different bodies were operating with their own set of rules and the Department was largely dependent on the pace at which they worked.
The Department had the same goals as the Committee. The Department wanted to see consequence management metered out as well as to hold the staff to account for the misdemeanours identified by the investigation. The Department wanted to see the criminal charges succeed. The Department would be ready to testify in Court to ensure that the companies would not take the Department for a ride. The Department would use Beitbridge as an example to demonstrate its sense of commitment to root out wrong doing. The Department had no reason to delay the processes. The Department was doing everything in its power to execute those processes as speedily as possible, in particular the disciplinary processes. All the implicated employees were served with detailed charge sheets. The hearings on 8 March 2021 would allow for things to unfold. There was no delay there. They had ensured that they had ticked all the boxes so that nobody could point a figure at the Department stating that procedures were not followed. The investigation was conducted by the Department and they were supported by the SIU. This was an example of the Department showing its commitment to rooting out wrong-doing in its environment.
No staff members were suspended. The Department had not indicated that anyone was suspended in any previous meetings. The Department and Committee had ‘missed each other somewhere.’ The State Attorney had conducted a review of the nature of the charges against all 11 individuals. He had stated that at least eight of the individuals constituted misdemeanours and not offences that would be dismissible. There were possibilities of more stringent outcomes with three of the individuals who may face charges. The Department had taken the Minister into its confidence in that regard. The possibility of looking at a suspension among three of the 11 was under consideration. The discussions were ongoing with the Minster, when the Department had the opportunity to conclude them, the matter would be taken forward.
Regarding the issue of repairing the fence, in the Department’s report to SCOPA it had noted that the fence was repairable, however if it were to be fixed, it would provide the same level of protection as the old fence did. The old fence was not fit for purpose. If the fence was repaired it would still require the Department of Defence to conduct proper patrols, given that the fence had a very limited utility. Since then, the Department concluded that it did not want to repair the fence. They had engaged with the Department of Defence in December and they would be engaging with them the following day before the JCPS cluster. The Department would like to look at a long term solution. In the interim it was possible to use the existing fence but it would need to be accompanied by proper patrols. The Department of Defence may want the new fence erected and they may indicate as such in the meeting the following day, but from the Departments side this was not desirable.
He addressed the issue relating to the cost of the Kosi Bay fence, which the Committee had stated raised red flags. The Department concurred. He concurred with the Committee regarding the initial request of R50 million and the indication of R82 million during the site visit. The Department had received indications during discussions over the previous couple of days that it might exceed the R82 million. A maximum of eight kilometres of the fence was erected so far. That indicated an exorbitant cost of over R10 million a kilometer. It did not make sense. It was not rational. That was why they had a MOA, an instrument they believed would mitigate the Departments risks, to ensure that the Department paid for a fence that was of the appropriate quality and endorsed by the Department of Defence as being fit for purpose. The Department also wanted to ensure that the fence was ‘proper value for money’ and the required procurement processes were followed by the Department of Transport in KZN. All those provisions were included in the MOA. In the event that it was found that any of those conditions were not complied with. It would give the Department grounds not to make payment. The Department needed to be very careful, with all the red flags that were appearing before them, that they did not affect payment into an ‘irregular’ project. The MOA and its content was the risk mitigation instrument that the Department was using to negate the red flags that were highlighted by the Committee.
He addressed the issue highlighted by the Committee regarding the delay of various processes. He had touched on this issue in his first discussion point. The Department was dealing with external agencies. The Department was under significant pressure to conclude the processes. The Department was engaging with all the relevant parties, including the NPA through the SIU, given that the NPA did not necessarily give audiences. The Department was engaging with the SIU regarding the issues that were before the Tribunal. The Department was working very closely with the Office of the State Attorney to ensure that the disciplinary processes would be concluded. He assured the Committee that the quality of the processes and the manner in which the Department was pursuing them, would achieve the desired results. He hoped that the Department would have a very different conversation with the Committee in the coming months. He asked for the Committee’s support in holding individuals and companies to account for ‘fleecing’ of government funds.
Mr Sazona apologised for the Prestige Portfolio presentation made. He wanted the Committee to appreciate that the Prestige Portfolio received the draft report of the Committee on 15 February 2021, on the same day the Department had a planning session with the Acting Director General. As part of the planning session they needed to submit information and presentations to the Executive Authorities by 17 February 2021. The Prestige Portfolio may have overlooked the information/detail they needed to provide to the Committee. He apologised to the Committee. No disrespect was meant in not providing the level of detail requested. He requested that the Committee provide the Department with guidelines as to the level of detail required. He stated that the Prestige Portfolio would oblige to meet those guidelines.
He addressed the question raised by Ms van Schalkwyk in terms of the maintenance programme in Acacia Park. The initial date set to complete the 50 units was by the end of February 2021. This deadline would be met, however only 21 units would be delivered in the last week of February 2021. The Department was already speaking to the tenants to indicate that they would be able to move into the completed units. The remaining units would be delivered in the course of March 2021. By the 14 April 2021 all the units would be completed. The security clearance for the sub-contractors and a shortage of steel in the Country, which was required for the replacement of roof sheets on a number of units, were the main factors that had caused the delays. He reiterated that it would be completed by the 14 April 2021. The Department would send communication to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee in this regard. The communication had already been made to the House Chairs of Parliament.
With respect to the issue of connectivity in the Parliamentary Villages, and the exclusion of Telkom, he would address this with his colleagues in Parliament. The project was handled by Parliament. Parliament had invited the three service providers. He would seek answers as to why Telkom had not been invited.
He responded to the question regarding consultants versus professionals. In the detailed report the Department would submit to the Committee, he would include the delivery model used by Prestige Portfolio. Prestige facilitated the management of projects. The delivery of projects and the appointment of consultants or professionals took place in the construction branch. Prestige issued procurement instructions. Prestige was not involved in who was used, in terms of service providers. Through the Acting Director General he would request that the Construction Branch respond on the matter raised by the Committee.
In terms of the Broll contract and its expiry, the Department went into an open tender to get consultants for those services. The process was aborted as the company selected had under-quoted the Department and it was decided that the tender needed to be lapsed. That tender lapsed and they started another process. The consultant service provider that would develop the scope of works had been appointed. That appointment was delayed for several months by security clearance from the state agencies. This was outside of the Department’s control. The state security clearance was only granted in December. The Department met with the company in January 2021 when Parliament opened and gave them the scope of work and instructed them to have the service provider on site by June 2021.
He noted the recommendation by Ms Hicklin regarding the inventory of units to be carried out twice per year. He also took note of the suggestion that the tenants/members would need to accompany an official to the units when they took occupation so that an asset register and the conditions of those assets could be recorded. He assured members that on the issue of vandalism of the property, the Department would take a hard stance and hold members to account. The Department would ensure that it conducted an inventory and develop standard operating procedures of how they manage that process. The Department would report back to the Committee regarding members who had vandalised units in the Parliamentary Villages.
Ms Sasa Subban, Deputy Director General: Real Estate and Investment Services, DPWI, responded to the query relating to the maintenance of the fence. SCOPA, in their recommendations, requested that the defects needed to be assessed and rectified in line with the applicable legislation. As part of the business processes, the State had invested money into the fence and they needed to determine how best to salvage and utilise the fence to serve as a deterrent. The report that was presented on 2 February 2021 to SCOPA indicated the technical condition assessment conducted by the architect. The fence could be partially repaired and there were areas where the structures had fallen off that could be looked at and rectified. She and the head of the Budget Committee had a discussion and looked at all the pros and cons in terms of the processes. They agreed that the rectification of the fence would only serve as a partial deterrent. It would be wasteful expenditure to spend more money on that particular fence. Rather it was decided that the Department approach the Department of Defence to increase their surveillance at the borderline. The Department had engaged accordingly with the Department of Defence. This was reinforced in the MOU which would go through to the Department of Defence.
Mr Clive Mtshisa, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, DPWI, noted the comments made by the Committee. The Department took the Committee seriously and respected it. It was difficult for the Department to share all the details regarding the disciplinary hearings without being seen to compromise the disciplinary process itself. On 8 March 2021 all officials charged would be appearing for the first time in front of the Disciplinary Committee that would deal with all the preliminary issues, such as the exchange of documents. The date of the hearing would resume immediately thereafter. The aim was to have the hearings take place between 8 March 2021 and mid-May 2021. The Department had secured the eighth floor, which was a suitable space for the hearings to be conducted and could accommodate the ten officials. He clarified that he was saying ten, because the eleventh one had two different charges. The process would be managed with earnest. The Department would ensure that the necessary details were provided for.
Invariably when the Department came before the Portfolio Committee it mostly gave a presentation, but he suggested that the Department should change its approach and rather submit two documents to the Committee. The first document would be a comprehensive report that contained all the details and the presentation could then focus on the main highlights and themes. In that sense Parliamentary members would have the benefit of the details, to be able to move between the presentation and the detailed document. He suggested that this was one area the Department could correct going forward. It would be imprudent for any officials to act in a manner that sought to undermine the Committee.
Deputy Minister Noxolo Kiviet assured Members that the Department respected the Committee. The Department did its level best to account for those areas that it was requested to account on. She responded to the issue about the pace at which the Department was working. This was a problem she and the Minister experienced as well in relation to the Department, and they were working to change this. The Department was aware and it was something they were trying to deal with. It was one of the reasons why the Minister directed the Deputy Minister to drive a change management process which was started toward the end of 2020.
Disciplinary processes were not easy, particularly in government. It came down to the Public Service Act. It seemed like an Act that protected officials extensively. In the private sector disciplinary processes, at most, took two weeks. The provisions in the law did not allow such a short process in government. The Department of Public Service and Administration was looking at that issue. It was frustrating everyone in government that when there were misdemeanours, officials implicated had many rights, steps to go through and ‘many places to hide.’ She appealed to the Committee that they assist one another in looking at the Public Service Act especially in so far as the protection of officials in government was concerned.
In reference to Ms Hicklin’s statements, the Deputy Minister stated that they may ‘not all be friends with the Minister.’ She as the Deputy Minister did her work. None of the officials could say otherwise. She requested that the Committee members engage with the Contract Management team regarding the consultants. She suggested that the Committee ask what was said to them by the Deputy Minister about Broll and the need of those contractors. It was ‘vulgarisation’ of the public procurement process. The fact that everything and anything must go to tender was problematic. She suggested it enhanced corruption. There were other means they could use. The Department had registered professionals. She could not see why the Department could not use their own EPWP employees coupled by a qualified professional to carry out that work - in the spirit of job creation. It was a mind shift that they should all drive. Government procurement must not only enrich Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) alone. There were so many unemployed graduates and matriculants who did not have jobs. She concurred with the spirit of that suggestion.
The Deputy Minister was pleased that the Chairperson had gone to Kosi Bay, as it was not known what was happening. The Chairperson had sounded the alarm bells on Beitbridge, and therefore they became aware and were able to act immediately. A warning was given to the person who made the MOA for the Kosi Bay project. A disciplinary process did not take place and therefore there were no grounds to stand upon to state that there should have been a ‘harsher sentence or penalty.’ This was another limitation. The political leadership was constrained by law to act as a result of the power held by officials. It was something she implored on the members to act upon. As political leadership they must account. When one made officials account the law protected them so much. Those were the frustrations they were confronting. She agreed with Mr Mtshise regarding the presentation and the detailed document the Department would submit to the Committee when asked to present generally. In terms of the disciplinary processes, she assured the Committee it would be seen to its finality – so as not to promote issues of corruption. She would ensure that the Department was not party to wasteful expenditure or fraudulent activities that would further put a ‘blind spot’ on the issue. She would work to change the embedded issues within the Department.
The Chairperson noted that the Deputy Minister was committed to changing the Department, but the public was aware of the extent of corruption within the Public Works Department. The Committee noted the progress relating to the Beitbridge investigation and the legal processes that were unfolding. The Committee was concerned about the time wasted in dealing with the cases. She requested clarity regarding whether prosecution would take place in Polokwane or Pretoria. She was pleased that the SIU Tribunal would speed up the process.
She highlighted her concern about the item in the presentation that referred to the training of the supply chain management staff (SCM). People were employed in critical positions, such as in the case of SCM, based on the fact that they had the necessary qualifications and now they were being trained as if they did not have the necessary knowledge. She understood that those officials had done things that they were not supposed to and training needed to be done regularly. It was as if this was a new training. SCM was crucial for procurement processes across all departments - when one spoke of corruption ‘it started right there.’ It was concerning that those employees were only be trained at this point – but the Chairperson appreciated the fact that it was starting. The training should be something that was ongoing to prevent what occurred in Beitbridge.
She found it strange that on the reports received by the Committee from Property Management Training Entity (PMTE) previously, it stated that PMTE did not spend much with respect to employees. It was clear consultants were used and the presentation, made that morning, corroborated that consultants were used. It was crucial to recover the economy and Public Works was a dominant driver of employment, thus the Department needed to move away from relying on consultants.
The management of the parks offered an opportunity to employ unemployed youth. The statistics were ‘scary’ regarding the number of unemployed people out there. Unemployed youth often landed up ‘killing themselves’ or ended up getting involved in crime. She requested that the Department look into that – the employment of youth. This would assist the Country in its economic recovery. The Department was crucial in driving that. The head of Prestige had indicated that there was an updated report that could be made available to the Committee by 25 February 2021. The Committee would appreciate detailed notes relating to the presentation given that morning. She requested that the Department generally provide the Committee with all the relevant information so that the Committee could conduct its oversight role and work with the Department.
Mr Mashele stated that the Committee represented the public. After each meeting he had noticed that the team and Chairperson had struggled to construct media statements on the outcome of the meetings. He suggested that as the Deputy Minister was present, she could assist the Chairperson in this regard. In 2020, what was told to the public, in terms of the Beitbridge project is that, ‘processes were underway and there would be disciplinary processes’. He suggested that after the meeting underway, the Chairperson would land up issuing a similar statement to the year before. He requested that the Deputy Minister summarise the meeting that had just taken place, such that when the Chairperson made a media statement she had a proper summary of the meeting; a summary that would differ from the one given in 2020.
The Chairperson stated that she would not ask the Deputy Minister to provide a summary. The issue of the Beitbridge was one that was in the public domain and the public would like to see progress on it. SCOPA was following that project. A media statement might be given after the meeting on what the Department was doing. She was not afraid to state that the Department was moving at a slow pace – it could not be hidden. The Deputy Minister indicated that it was because of the rights afforded to officials. The Deputy Minister also stated that within the private sector, disciplinary processes took two weeks. The issue of Beitbridge had been going on for six months. She realised that Mr Mashele had raised that as a result of the frustration felt by the Members of the Committee – especially when asked by the public. There was a Head of Department in North West who had been suspended since 2018; it was 2021 and still he had not been charged of any wrong doing. He was sitting at home earning money. Why could the National Department not intervene and ask the Provincial Department why it was being handled in such as manner. It reflected badly. She suggested that the Deputy Minister follow up on that issue.
The meeting was adjourned.
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