Beitbridge border fence: Minister of Public Works progress report

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

11 May 2021
Chairperson: Mr M Hlengwa (IFP)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Public Accounts

ATC201119: Report of Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its oversight visit to Beitbridge Border Post, from 4 to 6 September 2020, dated 17 November 2020

In a virtual meeting, the Committee met with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to be briefed on the progress being made on the Committee’s ten recommendations regarding the Beitbridge Border Post.

The Department said that 16 proposals had been received for solutions to the fencing along the border. A decision was taken to not repair the fence as it had been found to be unfit for purpose and repairs would constitute wasteful expenditure. Legal action had been instituted against the main contractor and the principal consultant to claim for civil damages in relation to the contracts. In this regard, the two companies had approached the Department for an out-of-court settlement. The criminal case had not yet been registered. National Treasury would review the recommendation to blacklist the two companies from doing government business for ten years. The internal audit team had found nothing in its inspection to warrant the immediate termination of the contracts with the two companies. There were 230 Supply Chain Management officials to be vetted. The disciplinary processes against 11 of the 13 implicated officials had been postponed, with one employee having made an application to court to set aside the matter. The disciplinary inquiry into the suspended Director-General was being managed by the Presidency and the disciplinary inquiry into the Special Advisor was being managed by the State Attorney.

The Members felt strongly that the Department was moving too slowly and accepting delays and postponements too easily. The timeline for the vetting of officials was too wide. They asked for more information on why the disciplinary processes had been postponed so many times and had not yet been resolved. Members were very concerned by the apparent lack of consequence management. The decision not to repair the fence was questioned.

The Minister engaged with the Members and their concerns in detail.

The Committee agreed that the Department had to act to speed up the processes in terms of reversing the unlawful appointments, concluding the disciplinary hearings, deciding on an approach to be taken with the border fencing, and the vetting of officials. There had to be improvements to the consequence and contract management of the Department, and there had to be accountability in terms of actions and reporting to the Committee.

Meeting report

The purpose of the meeting was for the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to present a progress report on the implementation of the ten specific recommendations tabled by SCOPA on 17 November 2020 in the report to Parliament on its oversight visit to Beitbridge Border Post, from 4 to 6 September 2020.

This related to complex issues concerning the repair and replacement of a 40km section of the Beitbridge Border Post fence, which had been identified as a hotspot for illegal immigration.

In addition, the Department was to discuss the ongoing processes to effect both the SCOPA recommendations and those from other investigations which had been undertaken on the Beitbridge contracts.

Department of Public Works and Infrastructure: progress on recommendations presentation

Mr Imtiaz Fazel, Acting Director-General, DPWI, presented the progress report on the Committee recommendations regarding the Beitbridge Border Post.

He said that the DPWI had given the Committee a report on its progress with regard to the recommendations on the Beitbridge investigation report on 2 February, and that the March progress report had been submitted to the Committee in April. There were ten recommendations to be addressed:

1. Review of memorandum of understanding

On the recommendation that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) be reviewed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the DPWI, the Department of Defence (DoD), and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the MoU had been finalised and was en route to the DoD for signature. Other role players would be engaged, including the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). A separate MoU would be developed with the DHA, and a meeting between the two departments would take place on 21 May to deal with border posts.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster supported the DPWI’s request for information (RFI) to obtain the best practice border-line and patrol road car solutions, in supporting the DoD, which was issued on 28 March. The RFI closed on 26 April, and 16 proposals had been received, with the Bid Evaluation Committee currently evaluating the bids. This process was instructed to be fast-tracked by Ms Patricia de Lille, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, and should be done within a month, provided a team of the necessary experts was established.

2. Rectifying all physical defects in line with applicable regulations

A technical report had been finalised, and the fence, in its current form, was deemed not fit for purpose and in material non-compliance with specifications. Hence, the DPWI took the decision not to repair the fence, as that would constitute wasteful expenditure.

3. Taking of legal action against the implicated companies and setting processes in motion to recover money paid

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had launched an application to freeze the service providers’ bank accounts in November. It had instituted legal action against the main contractor, Magwa Construction (Magwa), as well as the principal agent/consultant, Profteam, with the Special Tribunal. The main relief sought was the declaration of invalidity of the contract concluded between the DPWI and the two respondents. The matter would proceed in the absence of any appeal. Summons for losses and/or damages suffered would be issued once the Special Tribunal declared the contracts invalid. The respondents had approached the DPWI to consider an out-of-court settlement. The SIU would now apply for a formal case management meeting with a judge of the Special Tribunal. 

In terms of the criminal charges, the matter was under review by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). No criminal case had been registered. The matter was still under the consideration of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

4. Blacklisting and monitoring of the principal agent and main contractor

DPWI was in the process of writing to National Treasury to blacklist and monitor Magwa and Profteam to restrict them from doing business with the government in terms of Regulation 14 of the Preferential Procurement Regulations of 2017. The DPWI had not received any defence by Magwa against its claims of the intention to restrict them from doing government business. Profteam denied all allegations. The Restriction Committee and Authority (RCAA) found the denials to be a poor defence. The RCAA resolved that the matters be referred to National Treasury to approve the restriction for ten years. This was the stage at which the matters were currently at.

5. The immediate termination of the contracts with the main contractor and principal agent

The DPWI internal audit team was currently reviewing the two contracts. The review consisted of checking that the proper procurement processes were undertaken and the proper appointments were done, to establish whether proper delivery took place under the contracts and whether all terms and conditions were complied with. They also conducted a physical verification of all of the construction sites of the two companies to ensure the work took place under the correct conditions. There were many other aspects that were reviewed, as detailed in the slides.

The contract with Magwa was subject to the General Conditions of Contract for Construction Works (Second Edition 2010) and enabled the DPWI to unilaterally terminate or cancel the contract with immediate effect, with DPWI then obliged to pay the lesser of three amounts to Magwa in this event. The contract with Profteam was subject to the Standard Professional Services Contracts of 2009 and did not contain an immediate, unilateral termination or cancellation clause as in the contract with Magwa. However, the contract with Profteam does contain a clause that enables the DPWI to terminate the contract under five circumstances. One of the circumstances where the DPWI may terminate the contract was where the services of Profteam was no longer required, but it had been advised that the clauses of the contract would still be enforceable by both parties.

Currently, there were 30 active contracts, 19 of which were with Profteam and 11 of which were with Magwa. The contracts were all for land ports, in terms of repairs and maintenance. 15 of the contracts with Profteam were at the three advanced stages, and four were at the design and tender stage. All 11 of the contracts with Magwa were at the three advanced stages, namely the construction, practical completion, and final delivery stages.

The audit team selected a 20% sample of the active contracts to review the proper processes and appointments. This process should be completed by 14 May. A 33% sample was selected to ascertain whether there was compliant delivery. The audit team inspected seven out of the ten construction sites, with the remaining three to be inspected by 12 May. There was no material finding noted so far that warranted termination of the contracts. The remaining work would be completed, and the final report issued by 31 May.

6. Vetting of Supply Chain Management personnel

With the assistance of the State Security Agency (SSA), the DPWI had vetted and issued clearance for 160 Supply Chain Management (SCM) officials. No official had been refused clearance. There were still 230 SCM officials to be vetted. The process should be completed by March 2022. The Minister requested that this was fast-tracked. The SCM vetting project had commenced at the Bloemfontein Regional Office, which had 54 SCM officials and Bid-Committee members, of which 32 had outstanding clearances that should be finalised by the end of June. The DPWI resolved to complete 20 files per month in terms of the fieldwork vetting.

7. Taking of reasonable steps before money owed to the state could be written off as irrecoverable

The DPWI had placed a moratorium on payments to the service providers. The pending legal recovery action before the SIU Tribunal would determine the amount to be recovered. Through the SIU, the DPWI was claiming the full amounts paid to the service providers as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

8. Carrying out of consequence management against implicated officials

Two of the 13 involved officials were employed in terms of section 12 and 12A of the Public Services Act 1994, and thus those two officials would not be dealt with by the DPWI. The disciplinary action against the Adv Sam Vukela, former Director-General, DPWI, was being managed by the Presidency. The disciplinary action against the Special Advisor was being managed by the State Attorney on behalf of the Minister. The charges in terms of the Beitbridge Border Post had been added to the charge sheet of Adv Vukela. In terms of the Special Advisor, a follow-up engagement between the Minister and the initiator of the disciplinary process was tentatively set for 13 May.

The charges were served on all of the other officials, and the hearing was held on 8 March to agree on the hearing dates of 21 to 24 April and 4 to 6 May. The employees were given a chance to request particulars, but they did not request more information. The hearing for members of the Bid Adjudication Committee was set for 21 to 24 April, but was postponed to the 14 to 18 June, with there still being three witnesses that had to testify for the DPWI. The hearing for senior officials was scheduled for 4 to 6 May, but was postponed as the legal representative for one of the officials did not appear on 5 May. The DPWI and chairperson was served with a court application to review and set aside the directive of the Minister, amongst other actions taken with regard to the Beitbridge Border Post. The hearing in this regard was postponed pending the finding of the court, as the DPWI would not suffer any prejudice in postponing the matter.

9. Submission of investigation and monthly reports to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

The DPWI provided all progress reports to the Committee on 6 October and 2 February, and submitted a progress report to the Committee during April. The DPWI would continue to do so.

10. Optimal deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to perform border management and security

The DPWI engaged the DoD very early to increase the presence on the borderline. A ministerial interaction was made, and the Director-General of the DPWI sent a letter to the Secretary of Defence requesting the DoD to intensify patrols and indicated the withdrawal of private security appointed by the DPWI. This matter was addressed by the DoD.


Ms B Van Minnen (DA) said that the estimated dates for the MoU’s for the roles and responsibilities of the contracting parties was concerning. She said this related to recommendations two and ten, in which regard the Committee received unsatisfactory responses from the Minister of Defence on the facilitation of illegal entry into the country. It was important that the MoU was signed urgently, and that there was optimal deployment [of forces for patrols] by the DoD. It was important to get clarity on this matter.

She asked if the specifications for the border fence and control would include the DoD as a client and a maintenance budget, as the DPWI had indicated that it had no maintenance budget for the current fence. It was clear that when damage occurred, it had to be repaired very quickly.

She asked if the out-of-court settlement, in terms of recommendation three, would have an effect on the criminal proceedings. The Public Prosecutor was already holding back, so how would these two situations interact with each other? She noted that the timeframe for the vetting of officials was too far away, in light of how rapidly the issue of the fence developed in 2020. There had to be a more appropriate timeframe for that recommendation.

She said that she was deeply concerned about the disciplinary procedure in terms of recommendation eight. Clarity was needed on the postponement pending the finalisation of the court application. The Committee had the experience of seeing disciplinary proceedings being postponed for so long that everything falls away and nothing gets done. The DPWI had to ensure that the Committee was regularly updated on the postponement so that the matter did not end up vanishing.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) asked for clarity on the issue of the charges against Adv Vukela. Did Mr Fazel say that one of the charges related to the Beitbridge Border Post?

Ms NV Mente-Nqweniso (EFF) suggested that the Committee receive consolidated reports from the SIU on the progress being made with regard to the out-of-court settlement within the space of one week, and if it was going ahead with the settlement. She also requested details on the number of cases the SIU itself opened on the Beitbridge Border Post. From this exercise, she wanted to establish if both the involved companies and officials were being dealt with. Further, it had to be established whether there were any links between the officials implicated by the DPWI itself and those who were criminally charged.

She also noted that the NPA had to give the Committee a consolidated report on the criminal matters, and when it would be charging those implicated. Mr Fazel said in the presentation that the NPA had not yet laid any charges against the officials nor companies. There was clearly fraud, and misrepresentations of fact had taken place.

She said that National Treasury seemed to be dragging its feet with regard to the Beitbridge matter, and this was very bothering. Since the first DPWI report, the Committee had complained that National Treasury had not disclosed all of the facts for the Members to understand the financial transgressions that occurred. National Treasury had also promised to return to the Committee with the regulations, process, and progress of blacklisting the two companies.

She said that the SSA had to give the Committee a report on the vetting of the officials. There was a dragging of feet by the SSA to deal with the supply chain management (SCM) officials. A progress report had to be given. To have a clear understanding and to put the matter to rest conclusively, the relevant reports and information had to be disclosed. The Committee could not be dealing with the Beitbridge matter for five years.

She was concerned about the timeframes. There seemed to be a systematic delay that had been created. She said that the Mr Fazel had to convince the Committee otherwise. The timeframes for the disciplinary hearings did not make sense, as the DPWI was not at court. She asked why there would be a postponement for more than a month. What were the presiding officers and evidence leaders busy with? The Committee was aware of the tricks that people on contract use in order to prolong matters until their contracts expired. The timeframes had to make sense and the postponements had to be justified.

She said that she did not understand, nor was she convinced of, the issue with the court judgement resulting in the postponement of the disciplinary hearings. She asked for clarity on whether this meant that the NPA had to be involved and whether the DPWI was satisfied with the resulting postponement

Mr S Somyo (ANC) said that he appreciated the complexity at play on a number of areas that were informed by the legal aspects of the Beitbridge situation, which exposed how the DPWI responded to such transgressions. It was clear that contractual matters were administrative, in terms of ensuring the success of the contracts and pursuing the legal enforcing of the contracts. He appreciated that some review had been done on the contracts with Magwa and Profteam. National Treasury had to provide a report on the matters that had been referred to it.

He said it appeared that consequence management was moving slowly, which had to be discouraged. Those processes had to be fast-tracked by those involved. The Ministry had to encourage all platforms handling the disciplinary processes to observe quicker and more effective procedures. The slowness was not a deterrent, rather the quality of the processes was. He wanted to know what internal steps had to be taken to ensure that the contracts were monitored and performed with maximum output in terms of value for money. Measures had to be put in place to ensure that there would be a quality result. From the report in its entirety, the Ministry was on the right track, except for the matters relating to speeding up and tightening the aspects relating to the matters that were raised.

Mr A Lees (DA) said that the Beitbridge Border Post came about as an urgent project to secure the border against the entry of people possibly infected with Covid-19. The situation was now worse than when the fence was built, as mass vaccinations had yet to start, and Zimbabwe had a similar situation. The DPWI, a year and a bit later, has now said that it would not fix the fence as this would constitute wasteful expenditure on what was already wasteful expenditure. The border remained as porous, if not more, than before, given the Minister of Defence’s public admission to the Committee that the members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) did not stop people from entering South Africa, but rather assisted people in doing so to visit clinics and go shopping. He asked, if the DPWI was not doing any maintenance on the existing fence, and an incredibly long time was being taken to design and install a proper fence, what was the point of the SANDF being on the border and incurring costs which could go towards installing a fence. When would a fence be erected that would be properly secure and prevent people moving into South Africa illegally and/or with the Covid-19 virus?

The Chairperson asked if Mr Fazel could go into more detail in explaining the out-of-court settlement. Further, he said that there was seemingly a lack of pace in dealing with the issues. A lot had been said in the presentation, but a lot had not been done. It appeared that there was a hope that the Committee would forget about the issues. The report in its entirety was not inspiring confidence. Rather, it was evidence of an indictment of the DPWI’s internal processes, as clearly the culture of consequence management was absent in the DPWI and had to be triggered into life by the Beitbridge incident. He did not get any sense of urgency on the part of the DPWI. He was not convinced. He could not find any progress. He hoped that the responses would give more light. There had to be a logical conclusion that was reached with urgency.


Minister de Lille agreed with the Chairperson. She said that the NPA, SIU, National Treasury and SSA were entities outside of the control of the DPWI. She asked for clarity on whether the Committee wanted the DPWI to request the reports from those entities on behalf of the Committee or if the Committee would make that request directly. Either way, the DPWI would be able to write to those entities and get those reports. That showed the Committee that the little progress that was made was the result of the involvement of so many different agencies and the legal procedures that had to be followed. She was not making excuses, rather she was merely explaining that there were many factors beyond the control of the DPWI in this regard.

She said that National Treasury had sent a second report to her in October 2020 after it submitted a report to the Committee. If the Committee had not received that report, it could be forwarded.

On the MoU, part of the delay was that various departments had to sign it. As the MoU was linked to those department’s constitutional mandates, they had to be aligned before signature. Parliament had approved the Border Management Authority Agency, and an Acting Commissioner had been appointed. That caused part of the delay with the MoU. However, the DPWI followed-up with the DoD on a weekly basis on the signing of the MoU. The DHA was seeking further engagement on clarification on the MoU.

She referred Mr Dirks to slide 16 of the presentation for clarification on the charges against the suspended Adv Vukela.

On the timeframes, she agreed that the disciplinary processes were slow. The report released by the Minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration indicated that hundreds of people were currently on full-paid suspension with disciplinary proceedings that were dragging on for years. It seemed that this was the norm within the government. The Minister was responsible for the hearing of the Director-General, together with the President. For any official below the level of Director-General, the accounting officer was the Director-General, and the Minister acted as the appeal authority.

While the DPWI had taken the decision not to repair a fence that was not fit for purpose, it had reported to the Committee that it was looking at a long-term solution to fix all of the borders. The DPWI had put out a RFI to see what was available in the market. The DPWI had received 16 proposals for solutions for the fence. The Evaluation Committee was busy assessing those proposals, and as she had requested the process to be fast-tracked, it should be completed earlier than before the end of June. The Evaluation Committee would recommend two or three options, which the DPWI would take to the DoD to agree to the specification. Once that was done, the tender process would be started.

Linked to the border fencing, which DPWI was responsible for, it was clear that it would not receive enough funding from the national fiscus to close the 3 000 kilometre border. Hence, the DPWI had opted to make the border fence a strategic infrastructure project in terms of the Infrastructure Development Act of 2014. Once this project was gazetted, together with Infrastructure South Africa, it would be made a bankable project so that the DPWI could go out and look for funding. Linked to the fence were the ports of entry. The DHA had made an application for funding to beef up six border posts to the Infrastructure Fund. She chaired the Fund, to which the government had committed R100 bn over ten years. Last week, R1.5 bn was approved as a start-up to deal with the border posts at Beitbridge, Lebombo, Lesotho, Botswana, and Eswatini. The border posts and fence were being brought together as one strategic project. That was the long-term plan that the DPWI was attempting to stick to rather than merely fix the fence. That plan could be presented to the Committee.

In terms of the out-of-court settlement, she said that the DPWI was verbally informed of the situation by the SIU, but Mr Fazel could give the Committee more detail. The DPWI, as the applicant, together with the SIU had to be consulted before a decision was made to settle.

The DPWI would try its best in the timeframe and within its legal mandate to speed up the processes, but it was painfully slow, especially consequence management as there were many uncontrollable delaying factors.

Mr Fazel said that Mr Christopher Makgoba, Head of Legal Services, DPWI, would deal with legal issues.

Mr Makgoba said that the disciplinary processes involved many people. In terms of officials, there were the legal representatives, the chairperson, the initiator, and the witnesses. The dates chosen had to suit the schedules of all the participants. The DPWI tried as much as possible to have a fair process, hence it brought in external people through the State Attorney. By its nature, the disciplinary proceedings were highly contested. Hence, there had to be guiding values of fairness, impartiality, and transparency. As the DPWI was charging many people, it tried to accommodate everyone.

The Chairperson said that Mr Makgoba’s response was unsatisfactory as it allowed people to perpetually give excuses. Quite frankly, he said that what was being said was not acceptable as it meant that the disciplinary process was left to the whims of those implicated. Mr Makgoba had to give a more appropriate response.

Mr Makgoba noted the Chairperson’s concern. He said that the disciplinary process was controlled by the chairperson, but the DPWI made its submissions regarding the urgency of the matter. Ultimately, the chairperson had to make final determination, taking into account the submissions of all the parties. The DPWI had also been struggling with leading its witnesses to support its case. Some members of the technical assessment team were reluctant to testify, but the DPWI was trying to resolve that issue.

The DPWI was in the hands of the chairperson of the hearing with regard to the postponements. The application to the court made by one of the charged officials was opposed by the DPWI which indicated that there was no court order which prevented the hearing from continuing while the review process was ongoing. The cases were argued, and the chairperson came to the decision that the essence of the review application had a bearing on the disciplinary process, because the applicant was seeking to set aside the disciplinary inquiry, the directive, and the report which gave rise to the charges. The chairperson indicated that the DPWI would not be prejudiced by a postponement, rather it would benefit from it in terms of costs. The DPWI then had to decide whether the challenge this decision, but recognised that any review in the Labour Court may take more than a year, which may be longer than if the DPWI allowed the postponement to run its course. It was understood that the urgency of the hearings had to be prioritised.

Mr Robert Muthanyi, Chief Director: Security Management, DPWI, took the Committee through the vetting process. He said it was a tedious process, as it was seen as an intrusive investigation. Workshops were conducted to create awareness of the process by indicating the purpose and legal mandate of why employees had to be vetted. Thereafter a clearance form was issued to the employees to complete, with supporting documents. Those files were then taken to the SSA to open files and attach other necessary information. The employees’ fingerprints were taken to the South African Police Service (SAPS) to verify if the employees have criminal records. After that process, the DPWI vetting fieldwork investigators would conduct interviews with the vetted official and their five referees. This meant that the investigators had to travel across the country to conduct interviews. Thereafter, they would write a report, analyse it, and make recommendations. Those files would be taken to the SSA which would conduct polygraph tests for each official, which was a lengthy process, after which an evaluation unit in the SSA would evaluate all of the information gathered, and if there was nothing irregular, the officials would be recommended for clearance. Clearance would then be taken to the Director-General of the SSA for signature and then dispatched to the DPWI. For one file to be completed, it would take no less than three months. This was not something that could be done in a week or a day. Considering that there were more than 200 officials, the DPWI felt that the whole financial year would suffice for the vetting to be completed.

Mr Fazel said that the internal audit team had visited seven sites of the ten sites where the Magwa and Profteam operated to ensure there was value for money and quality performance. These processes, together with an assessment done against the invoices of those two companies, were some of the controls being put in place to retrospectively determine if the DPWI was receiving value for money, and whether the companies would be able to deliver on the contracts going forward.

He assured the Committee that consequence management was a priority in the DPWI with regard to all of the projects it undertook, including implementing the recommendations of the Public Services Commission on the unlawful appointments made in the DPWI. There was a case in the Labour Court to reverse the appointments of 12 senior management service members. The DPWI had been waiting for two years for the Labour Court to enrol the matter. The Minister was considering talking to the Judge President regarding the delay. In that time 12 members of staff were appointed to those positions and continued to serve in those positions. The DPWI now had 30 senior officials in total going through consequence management in addition to those 12.

The DPWI also desired greater speed of the processes, however, it was dependent on the entities that it worked with. Consequence was a priority. The DPWI had to ensure that people were brought to account and that a message was sent that misconduct in any form would not be tolerated. The DPWI was committed to this.

Minister de Lille acknowledged the weaknesses in the system. She noted the concerns raised. The DPWI was responding to the recommendations of the Committee and would continue to work with the Committee and give it monthly reports.

Follow-up discussion

Mr Dirks said that consequence management was going nowhere slowly. He said that there was no direction. He had a serious problem with the fact that the whole Beitbridge saga started with a political instruction. The letter that the Minister wrote to the official was very prescriptive. Adv Vukela was bypassed with that instruction. He was shocked to learn that Adv Vukela was also charged in the Beitbridge matter. He asked why there was no political accountability for what took place. Where was the oversight on the part of the politicians? Officials faced charges, but politicians continued without any consequences or accountability. It was clear that that letter got the ball rolling.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso accepted the Minister’s concerns. She clarified that she would like the DPWI to request the reports from the entities to speed the process up. That should have a timeframe of no more than one week. The Committee was confronted with a similar situation in less than a week’s time, where a government department could not get out of a contract with an unscrupulous entity. This was something that had happened with the service provider for water. It could not be that the DPWI could not raise a serious concern of criminality about these companies. There should be a clause, as when entering into a lease, that dealt with forfeiture of rights under the contracts when obligations or certain conditions were not met. The DPWI had to have competent lawyers and appropriate mechanisms to deal with this situation. These companies were criminals as they knew they did not have the requisite resources to perform their duties.

Mr Somyo said the Minister’s last comment defeated his purpose that the critique on the report was taken note of. He asked the Minister to look further into the internal audit report on the contracts which were determined to be acceptable. The contracts had to be investigated more closely. There was some level of suspicion that the companies being dealt with had committed criminal acts. As result, the DPWI was sitting with a product with no quality. He urged the Minister to investigate this.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said that the Code of Good Practice under Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act stated that employers had to allow for reasonable time in disciplinary matters. She said that reasonable time had already been afforded to the employees in the first place. The employees would continue to ask for postponements. The DPWI had to stop granting them. The DPWI had the law on its side as an employer. It could not be held at ransom. The presiding officer had to inform the DPWI of possible recourses it had to accelerate and conclude the process. If things continued in this fashion December would come, and the same matter would still have to be dealt with. What was being explained was contrary to labour law.

The Chairperson said the Minister had captured the concerns of the Committee correctly, and the Committee stood by that. Ultimately, consequence management had to run its course. It was dawning on the Committee that consequence management was an exception in the DPWI, not a norm. And now consequence management had to be implemented. This was why things were not moving, and there were employees who wanted to dictate the terms of their disciplinary processes.

He said that the Committee did not derive any comfort nor was it convinced by the report that was presented. Ms Mente’s suggestion would be actioned by the Committee and a broader meeting with the involved entities would be scheduled. That matter would be dealt with, as well as the Presidency in terms of the disciplining of Adv Vukela. The DPWI had to move with a speed that inspired confidence that it owned this process. There was a sense that it may do this only because Parliament said so, not because it thought it was necessary. This was the normal course of work; it had to be done because it had to be done. It had to be done thoroughly. That was the reservation that Members had about the process.


Minister de Lille said that Ms Mente summed it up properly. She said that the problem in government was that money was spent after the fact to find out what went wrong. Systems had to be put in place to prevent and detect corruption before it happened. In 2019, she introduced consequence and contract management policies, which had to be implemented by the DPWI.

She said that Ms Mente was right, as there were hardly any penalty clauses in government’s contracts with service providers. She had asked the DPWI to review all the contracts to increase the penalties for poor performance and service delivery. The legal department had to look at the type of contracts entered into. She was unsure of what criteria were used to determine which contractor received which contract. The internal audit team had to speed up the review process of all of the contracts to strengthen them and build in penalty clauses to protect the government and not only the service provider.

She said that Mr Mandla Sithole, Chief Financial Officer, DPWI, had introduced a system whereby he made sure that before the finance department transferred payment to the service provider, he verified that the necessary work was received. The systems were slowly beginning to kick in. the DPWI also had independent companies to assist in the doing of due diligence on these companies. She had also instructed the legal department to be involved in the tender process right from the start.

Small improvements could be seen, but there was room for improvement. The DPWI had to move quickly. As an example of government processes, if a submission had to come to the Minister, it could take between three and four weeks for the form to be signed. If changes had to be made, the process would start again. The systems were being reviewed. With the help of National Treasury, technology would be integrated into the system.

In response to Mr Dirks, after the DPWI launched an investigation with the SIU, the President issued a proclamation. Mr Dirks had to be patient as the SIU would make recommendations to the President who would decide on the matter. She said it was misleading to say that the directive issued by the Minister led to corruption and irregular and wasteful expenditure. Nowhere in the letter was anyone given the right to be corrupt. In fact, it was she, as the Minister, who launched the first investigation when she saw the red lights flashing. On 20 April 2020, she wrote to the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). On 25 April she started an investigation, assisted by the SIU, and she stopped all payments. If Mr Dirks wanted to mislead the country and imply that she benefitted from this in any way, he had to bring forth evidence. She had to protect her dignity, and she would not allow anyone to insinuate that she was the cause of corruption. Mr Dirks raised this in every meeting.

She agreed that the contracts had to be looked at and the speed of work had to be increased in terms of working on the recommendations. She said that she would write to the Chairperson in a weeks’ time explaining how this would be done, so that the Committee was satisfied with the reports at the next engagement. The DPWI acknowledged its weaknesses and would work with the Committee in improving its performance. She thanked the Members for their constructive criticisms and concerns.

Mr Dirks raised a point of order. He said he had raised the matter many times. At no stage did he imply that the Minister benefitted financially. That statement was misleading. He pointed out that whether the executive wanted to get angry or not, the Committee would play its oversight role and questions would be put to all of the ministers. It was nothing personal. He believed that there was no political oversight after the prescriptive letter was sent out. He would ask that question at all times, without fear.

The Chairperson said the DPWI did not want to commit to any sort of determination in so far as the ministerial instruction was concerned. He said that there was an investigation into the matter. The process had to be allowed to run its course, but the Committee had to keep the matter firmly on its radar, as it was doing with the matters of the Director-General, the Special Advisor, and the 12 implicated officials. All of those matters combined were expected to be brought to a logical, legal conclusion, and thus provide clarity. The Committee wanted justice, successful prosecutions where appropriate, and contracts to be reviewed. These things had to be done with speed, because as long as there were delayed the dark cloud would continue to hang over everyone.

He said it was in the interest of all of the stakeholders in the DPWI for this to be done. If there were people who were suspended but still being paid, everyone was negatively affected. National Treasury had to be brought in to give an explanation. The investigation had to be sorted out. The Minister would subject herself to that process to explain the nature and circumstances of the ministerial instruction. That would be dealt with accordingly.

Mr Fazel said the Minister had concluded and he had nothing to add.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson said that if there were any issues that the Minister wished to clarify, the DPWI would have a week to do provide written submissions. The Committee would process the information from the relevant entities on all pertinent matters to relating to the Beitbridge Border Post. The Committee would set a date for an engagement, and as there would be the Budget Vote, the Committee might have to have a graveyard session for the stakeholders to come in and provide explanations.

He said the Committee wanted a timeline for when the disciplinary processes would be happening. The Committee would determine, the following week, after receiving input, as to how much more time would be given for the disciplinary processes. The Minister would be held directly accountable if the processes did not move with the necessary speed. She had to employ the necessary resources to deal with the matter, as a failure to do so would set the precedent that consequence management was negotiable. This was a black mark on the DPWI of epic proportions. The Beitbridge saga remained one of the gravest indictments, with the personal protective equipment procurement processes. It was a disgrace.

He said the matter could not be open-ended, notwithstanding the complexities and excuses. The Committee would assist the process by ensuring that government counterparts did what they needed to do. But at the forefront, was the DPWI itself. He assured the DPWI that the matter would not be removed from the Committee’s purview. If there was a hope that the Committee would forget, the DPWI was mistaken. This matter remained firmly on the table. The Committee would not have gone to Beitbridge if it was not a serious matter. It went there, as it recognised the ripple effects of the failure to punish people and entities.

The issues raised were to enhance the process and acted as a reminder that the matter was a priority. The next report could not contain the same explanations and issues. There had to be movement. Mr Fazel and his team had to ensure that this was on the agenda for their weekly matters. There were other matters affecting the DPWI that also had to be dealt with, so this had to be addressed. The Minister would be given an opportunity to provide written submissions by the close of business on Wednesday 19 May. The Committee would engage with the other entities and give them a deadline to provide the reports. A date would be set in the next two to three weeks to have a session to allow the processes to move.

He asked if the Members if they agreed with his proposal and the course of action.

The Members agreed.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the DPWI for appearing before the Committee. He noted that the Committee had another sitting at 14:00. The matter of the ministerial letter would be pursued with the relevant authorities so that all aspects of the matter could be concluded. He noted that the Committee would receive a briefing from the AGSA on Wednesday 12 May.

The meeting was adjourned.

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