DA calls for clear details on Beitbridge Border plan, following DPWI’s poor showing before SCOPA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be submitting parliamentary questions to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille, for clear and detailed plans on the Beitbridge Border reconstruction project, following the poor showing by her department in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) today.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) briefed the Committee on plans to repair and reconstruct the Beitbridge Border fence. In light of the millions wasted by the Department the last time it embarked on a similar project, the sitting by members of SCOPA was an opportunity for DPWI to give us details on how they plan to repair the Beitbridge Border fence will differ from the previous ‘washing line’ which turned out to be waste of taxpayers’ money.

Unfortunately, the details from the DPWI regarding the repair and reconstruction of the Beitbridge Border fence turned out to be vague and unclear. It appears that the department has not been able to reach consensus over its desire to repair the fence and this has resulted in serious delays with the construction of other border fences.

The Beitbridge fence is extensively damaged, and by the Minister of Public Works’s own admission, it is substandard and not fit for purpose. However, Minister De Lille brought no viable suggestions as to how to deal with the border and the high levels of illegal migration across it, other than “going to the marketplace for ideas.”

The Acting Director-General of the department indicated to SCOPA that the department has no desire to repair the fence and that the assessment into the repairs as well as the need to find funds to perform this work is only as a result of the recommendations by SCOPA. This was supported by Minister De Lille who stated that any interim solution to the porous border with Zimbabwe will not include the fence that is not fit for purpose – it would be irregular expenditure.

There also seems to be a distinct lack of urgency within the department to hold the two companies, Magwa and Profteam, involved in the border fence scandal to account – in fact, the department continues to have a number of contracts (19) to the value of 400 million, and are defensive as to the ongoing work that these companies are doing – despite the wasted and irregular expenditure resulting from their work at Beitbridge, as well as an action from the Department to reclaim monies from these companies.

It is also apparent that there is disagreement within the department regarding the handling of this matter, the securing of deadlines for developments and reports and a Minister who seems intent on avoiding responsibility for any irregularities, preferring to instead blame her officials.

The question is, is the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure run by the Minister or her officials, and what plans if any, do they have to remedy the poor performance exhibited by the handling of this matter?