ATC201119: Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its oversight visit to Beitbridge Border Post, from 4 to 6 September 2020, dated 17 November 2020
Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its oversight visit to Beitbridge Border Post, from 4 to 6 September 2020, dated 17 November 2020
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) engaged with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and National Treasury on the emergency procurement processes followed by the Department for the installation of the 40km borderline infrastructure security fence between the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Having been briefed by the DPWI, various issues such as lack of planning, procurement irregularities, non-compliance with Supply Chain Management (SCM) prescripts, poor quality of materials used for construction, as well as excessive project costs were identified.
After these briefings, the Committee undertook a site visit to Beitbridge to investigate the quality of work done pertaining to the 40km Borderline Infrastructure Project as carried out by the appointed contractor, Magwa Construction, as well as the Principal Agent, Profteam.
Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) Chairperson, leader of the delegation;
Mr M Dirks (ANC)
Mr S Somyo (ANC)
Mr B Hadebe (ANC)
Mr A Lees (DA)
M B van Minnen (DA)
Ms V Mente (EFF)
Ms N Tolashe (ANC)
Ms T Zibula (ANC)
Ms B Swart (ANC)
Ms T Marawu (ATM)
Ms N Nkabinde Committee Secretary
Ms N Cenge Content Advisor
Mr L Balfour Committee Assistant
Department of Public Works and Infrastructure delegation:
Mr Imtiaz Fazel Acting Director-General
Mr T Mofokeng Director: ACU
Mr Mhlongo Chairperson: DPWI Audit Committee
Mr Ganiso Director of Town Planning Service
Mr Lukhele Chief Project Manager
Mr Ngcobo Director of Land Ports of Entry
Mr Ntshani Regional Manager: Polokwane
Mr Gayiya Representative: Internal Audit
Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) delegation
Mr Tshepo Chuene Senior Manager: PICC Technical Task Team
Mr Mzwandile Buthelezi SIP Lead (Civil Engineer)
Mr Thabang Tladi SIP Lead (Quantity Surveyor).
Special Investigating Unit (SIU) delegation
Mr Leonard Lekgetho Chief National Investigations Officer
Mr Johnny Le Roux Project Manager
On 15 of March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation with regards to the Covid-19 outbreak. The President declared the National State of Disaster, subsequently outlining some emergency measures to be implemented to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading.
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans, whose mandate is to secure South Africa’s borders, then requested the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, as a matter of urgency, to repair and replace a 40km section of the Beitbridge Border Post Fence, which was identified as the hotspot for illegal immigration.
On 16 March 2020, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure issued a directive in terms of Section 27(2)(l) of the Disaster Management Act, No. 57 of 2002, for the emergency safeguarding of the South African border posts. The directive was issued to have the emergency procurement procedure undertaken with immediate effect for the erection and repairs of the border fences, with the priority being Beitbridge Border Post, together and in parallel with the other identified hotspots. The directive issued by the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure included the following conditions:
a. The project team was required to conduct a site visit with the contractor by latest 18 March 2020 to undertake due diligence, secure the brief and personnel needs, determine the provisional costs and identify the emergency construction timeline.
b. The appointed contractor was expected to commence work by 20 March 2020 at the latest.
c. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DPWI was to be advised of the costs in order to secure the provisions for this emergency variation order. The CFO was required to put emergency mechanisms in place for payment of the contractor for work undertaken on a weekly basis.
d. The DDG: Construction Management was to identify competent site managers that will be on site permanently during the rollout of the emergency construction. One Project Manager would be identified to be responsible for the oversight of the entire project and accountable for the delivery in terms of expedited timelines.
e. A delivery progress report was to be provided to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure together with the Minister of Defence on a weekly basis.
The Committee’s main objective was to observe first hand the quality of work done by DPWI, assess and obtain information on the current state of the project, and to find out what has led to the delays and cost escalations.
The Committee, accompanied by the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, having undertaken an oversight visit to Beitbridge Border from 04 to 06 September 2020, in terms of Section 245 (1) (d) of the Rules of the National Assembly (2016), reports its findings and recommendations to the House as follows:
4.1 The following findings were made during the engagement with the Department, the SIU and NT
The Committee was informed that on 25 April 2020, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure requested the Department’s Anti-Corruption Unit to conduct an investigation on the procurement processes followed in the erection of the fence. The investigation team comprised of forensic and legal professionals from the Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) branch of the Department as well as seconded members of the SIU. This team was assisted by built environment specialists from the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) unit. The following were the findings from the investigations:
- Irregular application of emergency procurement and payment processes;
- Irregular appointment of the contractor and the Principal agent;
- Advance payments of R21 819 878 to the contractor, and R1 843 004 to the principal agent, were made under false representation;
- The payment would have been progress payment on actual materials delivered, but no materials had been delivered at the time of payment;
- Using the 2016 repairs and maintenance project (RAMP) contract rates at which this project was contracted, the overall total project cost should have amounted to R26, 110,717.51 and was therefore overpriced by R14, 325,197.47;
- A value for money assessment using the market related prices for materials actually used on the site, and engineering fees for services provided indicated that the project should have amounted to R23 388 028.97 and therefore was overpriced by R17 047 891.01;
- A material breach of the conditions of site clearance certificates;
- Bill of quantities, drawings, specifications were not aligned;
- The fence is not in compliance with drawings and specifications. The design of the fence had a final height of 2.2m, but the final actual height was less than 1.8m.
- Town Planning considerations were not taken into account before the respective contracts were awarded;
- Several aspects of design specifics as well as poor construction have compromised the effectiveness of a barrier as a deterrent for crossing the border;
- On one particular day, more than 115 unlawful crossings were recorded;
- The fence is not fit for the purpose it was meant for, and therefore any payments made in this regard might as well be regarded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure;
- The Department failed to test the market in this regard to at least determine the reasonableness of Magwa’s pricing;
- The procurement framework of bid specification, evaluation and adjudication was not properly followed, nor was authority obtained from the National Bid Adjudication Committee (NBAC) to pursue a particular procurement strategy;
- No proper maintenance plan is in place; and
- In the meeting with SCOPA, the Committee gathered that the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was informed of the illegal ingresses that occurred, and the role that the individuals in the SANDF played in facilitating such movements.
4.2 Briefing by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission (PICC)
Before the Committee visited the project sites, it received a briefing from the PICC team and the Town Planner, and the Committee was informed of the following:
- What has been delivered is not what has been contracted. The quantity, quality and project specifications were not met;
- The Principal Agent (Profteam) failed to act in the interests of the DPWI and breached its fiduciary duties by not representing the department effectively;
- The barbed wire coils were stretched beyond the recommended effective limit, making it easier to scale down the fence;
- There was no confirmation that the quality of the concrete used was tested;
- Town planning considerations were not taken into account before the contract was awarded;
- A Provisional Site Clearance Certificate which was issued on 10 March 2020, for existing repairs and maintenance for the 700km stretch of the borderline between RSA and Zimbabwe was used illegally for the COVID-19 40km borderline fence;
- There was no clearance certificate issued for the project under review; and
- The constructed fence deviates from the approved border fence line, and is not in compliance with environmental laws and the Department of Environmental Affairs was not consulted in this regard.
4.3 The following findings were made at the Border by the Committee
- The length of the 40-kilometre border fence was divided at the bridge watermark and the Sand River Bridge to extend 20-kilometres on either side from east to west;
- The existing electric fence has been in place since 1984 and power was disconnected in 1994;
- This fence that was decommissioned in 1994 is still in a better physical condition, and is a clear demonstration of poor quality of the five-month old fence;
- The Department of Defence had use of the road through an agreement with the farmers who owned the farms as the road was on private land;
- The land on the side of the river and between the border fence is considered no man’s land. This part of the land has a long stretch of fence, but there is no fencing on the other side, while a lethal electric fence existed in the middle, but was disconnected;
- The contractor stretched the barbed-wire to 600 millimetres in diameter, thereby reducing the concertina wire. This made the fence less secure, as the razor wire put up can be bent with a finger;
- The fence was not galvanised and there was no SABS certificate from the supplier;
- The newly erected fence was damaged and tarnished;
- Some gates had no locks and some locks were interfered with; some of the gates had big gaps underneath, while some of them were open;
- There were interferences with the fence and there were stretches of areas without a fence;
- Visible soldiers are deployed since March until end of September;
- The expenditure incurred was irregular and or fruitless and wasteful; and
- The roles and responsibilities set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) were not clearly defined and were inconsistent within the terms of the MoU resulting in uncertainties as to who needed to take responsibility for, and ownership of which specific functions.
The Committee recommends that the Accounting Officer ensures that:
- The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is reviewed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defence, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the Department of Home Affairs;
- All physical defects are rectified in line with all applicable regulations;
- Legal action is taken against implicated companies, and processes to recover the money paid are set in motion;
- The Department writes to National Treasury requesting to blacklist and monitor the Principal Agent and Main Contractor from doing business with Government, in terms of Regulation 14 of the Preferential Procurement Regulations, 2017;
- The several contracts that the Principal Agent and the Main Contractor have with the Department are terminated with immediate effect,
- A process of vetting of all Supply Chain Management personnel is initiated;
- All reasonable steps are taken before monies owed to the state can be written off as irrecoverable;
- Consequence management against all implicated officials is carried out with adequate sanctions;
- Investigation reports are submitted to SCOPA on 31 December; and thereafter monthly progress reports are also sent to the Committee; and
- SANDF deploys optimally to perform their mandate of border management and security.
The Committee is of the view that there was value-for-money for the Department when it was utilising the services of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in investigations targeted at rooting out corruption in the Department. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Department continues to make use of the services of the SIU to follow up on any occurrences of corruption within the Department.
National Treasury should monitor the termination of the contracts with the Principal Agent and the Main Contractor and determine whether or not there are any payments made.
The Committee recommends that the Auditor-General conducts performance audits on the contracts, and follows up on consequence management as stipulated by SIU.
The Committee further recommends that the Executive Authority submits a progress report on the implementation of all the above recommendations to the National Assembly within 60 days of the adoption of this report by the House. The Accounting Officer must submit quarterly progress reports to SCOPA on the above recommendations.
A special audit on all Magwa construction contracts over the past 10 years needs to be conducted by the AG, and a report should be submitted to Parliament within 90 days from the date of adoption of this report by the National Assembly.
Report to be considered.
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