De Lille roots out corruption in Beitbridge fence project

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille says the department is taking steps to give effect to the report recommendations by the Auditor General into the Beitbridge border fence project.

The Beitbridge project was initiated by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure in mid-March 2020.

De Lille raised concerns over the project and on 20 April 2020, requested that the Auditor-General conduct an independent audit into the project.

On 25 April, De Lille requested her department’s Anti-Corruption Unit, assisted by members from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), to also probe the project.

At the time, De Lille instructed that project payments be stopped, pending investigation outcomes.

“These investigations revealed that a series of procurement and other irregularities were perpetrated and possible acts of fraud may have occurred.

“The investigation report recommends a number of disciplinary and criminal charges against those involved to be pursued,” De Lille said.

The Minister has thanked members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, as well as the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs for undertaking their oversight inspection at the Beitbridge border fence project this past weekend.

“I thank all members for supporting the due process to be followed in implementing the report recommendations, and assure them and the South African public that the initiation of the disciplinary processes is already well underway,” De Lille said.

The department’s Legal Services Unit referred the matter to the Office of the State Attorney to draft the charges, appoint the initiator and appoint the chairperson.

The initiator and the chairperson have since been appointed, allowing the drafting of charges to commence.

These steps are being undertaken in consultation with the investigation team and in accordance with Section 8 of the Public Service Act, 1994, as per the terms of employment of 12 of the 14 implicated officials.

For the Director-General and Ministerial Advisor, separate disciplinary processes are required because these two persons are employed under sections 12 and 12A, not section 8, of the Public Service Act 1994.

The Ministry has already initiated a disciplinary process related to the charges recommended against the Ministerial Advisor.

The Director-General is already suspended, related to findings from a PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation on allegations of irregularities related to State funerals and a Public Service Commission investigation on irregular appointments within the department.

“I appreciate that South Africans are hungry for justice to be done, but I remind the public that all allegations of wrongdoing must be tested and the rights of the implicated be upheld during the disciplinary processes.

“I wish to assure the public that any official found guilty of any wrongdoing will be held appropriately accountable,” De Lille said.  – SAnews.gov.za

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