Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille’s stated intent when announcing a multi-million Rand upgrade of fencing adjacent to the Beit Bridge port of entry was to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19. That it backfired spectacularly was again brought to the fore by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) this week.
All manner of investigations for scapegoats was launched in the wake of first, the 40 km of upgraded fence being breached with ease within days of completion and secondly, the exorbitant cost – in excess of R40 million – for it.
Following a Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) briefing on Tuesday, SCOPA said it “is not pleased with the slow pace of investigations and consequence management in this matter” and that it will ask “law enforcement agencies” for progress.
“The committee will also request a report from National Treasury on the request sent to it by the department (presumably DPWI) to blacklist and monitor the principal agent and contractor from doing business with the government.”
Government spooks in the form of the State Security Agency (SSA) will also be part of the overall Beit Bridge fence fiasco. SCOPA wants SSA to report on vetting of DWPI supply chain management officials. Two hundred and thirty DWPI officials have been vetted and SSA will be asked to fast track processing of those not yet done.
SCOPA noted the decision by De Lille’s DWPI not to repair the damaged and discredited Beit Bridge fence as it would be fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
DWPI is “looking” at what is termed a long term solution for all fences on South Africa’s land borders with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) apparently included in the process.