JSCD wants DoD “weaned off” Public Works and Infrastructure

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Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), mindful of apparent shortcomings in Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), wants the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Works Formation “capacitated to wean itself off poor workmanship”.

The call was made in a statement following an update to the JSCD on DPWI work for the SANDF including the RAMP (Repair and Maintenance Project) at 1 Military Hospital and upgrades at the other two hospitals in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) portfolio in Cape Town’s Wynberg and Bloemfontein’s Tempe.

Upgrading and refurbishment work at the flagship 1 Mil in Thaba Tshwane was registered in 2006 – 16 years ago – and while portions of the project are complete, other work is still outstanding. A further brake on the work comes in the form of corruption investigations by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) – the Hawks – under case number HQ 01/09/2021. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, replying to a Parliamentary question last month, indicated no disciplinary action has been taken “against any staff” presumably referring to SAMHS and Department of Defence (DoD) personnel.

On the question of accountability for 1 Mil, the JSCD statement points out while the Hawks must be allowed “space” to investigate, there should be internal disciplinary processes to “hold officials accountable”.

Joint JSCD chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng said in the statement the oversight committee “resolved to engage” Surgeon General Major General Peter Maphaha on aspects of the unfinished projects. These include “exorbitant cost escalation” and outsourcing to private medical services.

The JSCD was unhappy with what it said was a R1.9 billion underspend by DPWI on DoD facilities in the four year period ending 2018. This, according to the statement, has “deteriorated the infrastructure portfolio [of the DoD]” leading to unusable infrastructure.

Its call to bring the Works Formation up to speed is tempered by what the rebuilding of capacity will involve, the JSCD said, adding possible further involvement of the Development Bank of SA (DBSA) as an implementing agent to reduce risk should be looked at. The government owned finance institution was asked to assist with refurbishment of part of 1 Mil’s first floor facilities, including an intensive care ward, in October 2020.

Future DBSA involvement in coaching and mentorship to “acquire and establish the required built environment professionals” for the Works Formation is also on the JSCD’s recommendation list for action by the DoD.