Court denies Beitbridge fence contractors’ profit

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That then Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille’s well-intentioned plan to provide an extra buffer against COVID-19 in the vicinity of the Beitbridge port of entry failed spectacularly is well-known and a court judgement this week put another nail in its coffin.

Government’s Special investigating Unit (SIU) this week welcomed a High Court order dismissing an application by two companies awarded the 46 km fence tender in 2020 to have them stripped of profit earned during erection of the fence.

The work done for the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) by the companies, named by SANews as Caledon River Properties and Profteam CC, was so shoddy the fence was easily breached by Zimbabweans illegally entering South Africa. It, according to reports, “fell apart” with the then Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow public works and infrastructure minister, Samantha Graham-Maré becoming the first public representative to publicly criticise the fence.

In March last year the SIU said: “The contractors were jointly paid R21.8 million of the R40.4 million in advance by DPWI for construction of the razor mesh fence. Following an intensive investigation by the SIU, which uncovered a number of irregularities including pre-payment, the DPWI was interdicted, prohibited and restrained by the Special Tribunal from further payment pending conclusion of a civil claim instituted by the SIU. The R40.4 million contract was reviewed and set aside by agreement between the parties.”

This week’s court appearance followed the contractor’s applying to retain profits earned in the fence erection contract.

The High Court ordered the contractors’ application be dismissed with costs and audited statements reflecting contract income and expenditure be filed within 30 days with the SIU given a further 30 days to report on the “reasonableness of the service providers’ expenses”.

Caledon River Properties and Profteam CC were further ordered by the court to pay DPWI “profit earned from the contract as agreed by experts”.