The “infrastructure” component of Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has come under fire for the Beit Bridge fence upgrade and now plans to spend R5 billion upgrading land borders with four neighbouring countries.
While the nod of approval for its role in land border infrastructure is welcome and will ease the burden on an already over-stretched SA Army border protection deployment, there are reservations.
Top of the list is the Democratic Alliance (DA) whose shadow deputy public works and infrastructure minister Samantha Graham-Maré put the public spotlight onto De Lille’s department regarding the over-priced and unfit for purpose Beit Bridge fence.
Speaking after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) was updated with a “Progress Report: Site clearance for intergrated (sic) border line fencing and patrol roads” she noted, among others, the proposed R5 billion spend was “only” for a portion of South Africa’s total land border of over four thousand kilometres.
“Making it worse is the expenditure is for basic infrastructure only and is based on two-year-old estimates,” she told defenceWeb.
“There is no disputing the absolute necessity of addressing border security. Recent oversight visits reveal the DPWI was involved in two different ‘emergency’ border fencing projects which deviated from normal procurement processes and carried a hefty price tag borne by the South African public.
“We cannot endorse a new border security proposal that is vague on proposed costs and already lodged with the Infrastructure Investment Office for future financing at a cost of R5 billion,” she said.
Graham-Maré also expressed concern as regards De Lille’s department apparently not being part of the new and still to become operational Border Management Authority (BMA).
“The recent enactment of the Border Management Act will create the BMA, a multi-department organisation responsible for the functioning and protection of our borders.
“It is concerning the DPWI, as custodian of all state infrastructure, is not statutorily mandated to serve on the BMA. That does not preclude the DPWI from consulting with stakeholders to ensure the final product meets client needs. The washing line at Beit Bridge is a prime example of the DPWI acting in isolation and delivering an overpriced and completely unsuitable end product,” she said in a disparaging reference to the hastily erected 40km of fence supposedly as a coronavirus deterrent at the height of the national state of disaster.
“De Lille behaves as if she is the ultimate arbiter of all things infrastructure and can act alone on developments in this sector. This behaviour has already cost this country R40 million. She needs to understand the mandate of her department, as well as her role and act in accordance. Until the Department has received sign-off from the BMA, it is premature to be asking for a R5 billion pledge from government.”