Parliament committee concludes that Beitbridge border fence is not fit for purpose

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The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says it has referred four criminal matters to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with regard to the procurement of a fence by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure at the Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

SIU Head Advocate, Andy Mothibi, says this is with regard to two department officials, as well as two service providers.

The Department’s Director-General Sam Vukela, Ministerial Advisor Melissa White and 11 other officials, are on suspension pending disciplinary measures.

Last month, members of Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) visited the Beitbridge border to assess for the status of the fence that was acquired for R40 million.

Members have described the fence as a sham and not fit for purpose.

“There is no dispute that corruption has taken place in so far as Beitbridge is concerned, corruption which did not even deliver a fence which is fit for purpose. And there are serious lapses on the part of the SANDF to even secure that fence which there is as you as the end-user hundred and twenty-two breaches on your watch,” says Committee Chairperson, Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

Accountability 

Minister Patricia De Lille told the committee that she had taken all the necessary steps to ensure accountability. This includes her invitation to the Auditor-General and the SIU to probe the matter.

She also outlined where the matter is with regard to the disciplinary process.

“If I could start with Advocates Sam Vukela, the Director-General; I have written a letter to the President with the Beitbridge report. And as we all know, the decision or the consideration lies with the President, how the President wants to proceed on that. We’ve written to the state attorney to appoint a chairperson and an initiator. We’ve also submitted a report to the state attorney so that the chairperson that will be appointed and the initiator, they will be formulating the charges. So, that is work in progress.”

The fence was procured in terms of the COVID-19 prevention measures to stop the inflow of people from neighbouring countries.

Measures to secure the border 

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula explained that her department was in fact not consulted and did not provide Public Works with the specifications for the fence.

She told the committee, however, that the fence is no longer the only way they are looking at to secure the border.

“One of the decisions, chair, is we begin to use drones, chairperson, to rely more on technology. Yes, we have our warm bodies on the borderline, but also rely on sensors. The fence has not helped. The movement of people continues and people have vandalised the fence. People have stolen the fence.”

Advocate Mothibi assured members that the SIU is determined to make sure that they recover as much money that was paid irregularly as they can.

“There’s also a case, a matter raised by honourable Mente. We need to get as much money back as possible. We agree with that and that is part of the special tribunal process. We will ensure that every party that we need to pursue to recoup and get back the money is also included in the process.”

The committee is finalising its report on the matter, which it will submit to Parliament for consideration.

Source: sabcnews