DoD slams De Lille’s Public Works and Infrastructure

1513

Parliamentarians heard a Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) R2 million plus quote for roof repairs at 3 Military Hospital was rejected with the job done internally by Defence Works Formation artisans in two weeks.

The work was done by an army engineer and seven artisans, a presentation to the Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) said last week, at a cost of under R70 000.

This is one example of where tension exists between government’s landlord and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), a major component of Thandi Modise’s Defence and Military Veterans Ministry. Last week’s meeting saw Appropriations Committee representatives “deliberate” with senior SANDF staff as well as DPWI and National Treasury personnel on what is termed “progress in devolving infrastructure maintenance functions” according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement.

The SANDF has a history of unhappiness with DPWI going back at least 17 years to when now retired SANDF chief Solly Shoke headed the SA Army. His way out was to re-establish a works formation in the landward force, have it work with the private sector in skills transfer and on projects to ensure military facilities were fit for purpose.

Another red light in the presentation has it the Department of Defence (DoD) “still” has no insight into DPWI project progress or involvement with “a one line cumulative expenditure per project and a status indicator per month” all it receives.

The fire at the Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof fuel depot and station earlier this year is another where Minister Patricia de Lille’s people have seemingly been tardy. Friday’s meeting heard that the DoD asked for repairs to be done immediately after the fire using “emergency funds”. This was no emergency, according to DPWI, and funding of R1.5 million provided by Modise’s department would have to be used.

“Seeing that DPWI is not fulfilling its promise to SCOA to fix the fuel station, the DoD engaged PWI again to fulfil its promise. DPWI responded again that the project is not an emergency and the DoD must provide the funding to fix the fuel station (sic),” is another example of the back-and-forthing with no-one seemingly prepared to take responsibility and do the work.

The disaster that is the refurbishment of 1 Military Hospital, already well-documented in Hansard and other Parliamentary reports, made yet another appearance with the Defence Works Formation indicating it is ready to take over and complete the work in 29 months “subject to funding and resolution of consulting firm issues”.

The cost of refurbishing what was widely accepted as one of the top military hospitals in the southern hemisphere, where evidence of corruption in excess of R2 billion has been uncovered  by Military Police and Hawks investigators and forensic analysts, is currently on hold. This is in line with ongoing investigations and “possible claims” from consulting firms apparently implicated.

SCOA also heard DPWI has spent R1.12 billion on consulting fees over a 25 year period with a further R1.4 billion needed for consulting fees for the same projects until 2026. Painting an even bleaker picture is none of these projects has yet commenced with completion dates also unknown.

“If DPWI is allowed to proceed with these projects, R2.5 billion will be spent on consultants without any tangible construction,” the DoD presentation notes.