Beitbridge fence saga not over with De Lille’s exit from Public Works

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Patricia de Lille is no longer President Cyril Ramaphosa’s point person for public works, but that doesn’t mean that at least one part of her legacy – the so-called Beitbridge washing line – is gone and forgotten.

The unfit-for-purpose fence erected on either side of the Beitbridge port of entry was initially uncovered by Samantha Graham-Mare. The The Democratic Allaince (DA) shadow public works and infrastructure minister coined the ‘washing line’ appellation for a fence easily scaled and removed by Zimbabweans intent on illegally entering South Africa.

With De Lille now in charge of tourism after Ramaphosa’s Cabinet shifts earlier this month, the GOOD party representative and her erstwhile advisor, Melissa Whitehead, “have evaded sanction”.

“Instead of being reprimanded De Lille was moved to the Department of Tourism and Whitehead is no longer employed by the Public Service. While several officials were issued written warnings and some from the National Bid Adjudication Committee suspended without pay for between one and three months, De Lille is yet to face the music,” a statement reads.

“The Beitbridge border fence process emanated from a directive issued by Minister De Lille that clearly identified the companies to be appointed without allowing for proper procurement processes to take place. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) found Whitehead acted inappropriately being involved in the project with site visits, instructions for variation orders and decisions about the scope, cost and specifications of the fence. All of these fall outside of her scope of employment as a Special Advisor.

“The Auditor-General reported there is no evidence of any disciplinary action being taken against Whitehead, despite claims by De Lille. Further, there are indications Whitehead has left the Public Service which would prevent further disciplinary action against her.”

Graham-Mare will keep asking questions and investigating De Lille’s “involvement and influence in the R37 million scandal until she is held to account”.