Pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to drop Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille from his cabinet.
Sunday World can reveal that the special investigations unit (SIU) has found that De Lille broke the law by meddling in the tender processes for the erection of a R40-million fence along the SA and Zimbabwe border near Beitbridge.
In a confidential presentation to Ramaphosa, the SIU said it would in due course refer De Lille’s conduct to the president.
The bungled Beitbridge fencing project is one of the reasons at the heart of the fallout between De Lille and the department’s suspended director-general, Sam Vukela.
“On the matter that has been finalised being the Beitbridge fencing investigation, it is clear that the supply chain management policies and the prescripts of DPWI [Department of Public Works and Infrastructure] were not adhered to. Contractors were appointed without following a fair and transparent process,” the report, dated October 15, states.
“The minister of DPWI [De Lille] overstepped her mandate by issuing a directive to the director-general [Vukela] of the DPWI without having the mandate to do so in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The SIU will refer the minister’s conduct to the president in due course.”
In August, Treasury told the National Assembly’s standing committee on public accounts that it appeared De Lille had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind for the border fence.
Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane also raised concerns about De Lille’s directive that the department’s chief financial officer was going to be advised on the costs of the project.
He added that regulations were flouted because of the speed of the project.
It has been alleged by the DA that De Lille’s adviser, Melissa Whitehead, was one of the minister’s staff members who was involved in several discussions around the Beitbridge border fence upgrade project.
The discussions included site visits, instructions for variation orders and decisions regarding the scope, costing and specifications of the fence. SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said they did not do a presentation to the president on October 15.
“We did not do a presentation to the president on the 15th October 2020. The last time we presented to the president was on 2 September 2020,” he said.
De Lille did not respond to written questions.
Presidency acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale said: “The Special Investigating Unit has yet to submit a final report for consideration by the president.”
The Beitbridge border fence is not the only procurement Vukela has accused De Lille of interference. In August, Vukela attached two letters in court papers to show that De Lille interfered in tender processes of the institution.
He filed papers at the Pretoria High Court in a bid to interdict the disciplinary proceedings instituted against him by De Lille. In one of the letters, dated July 16 2019, De Lille asked Vukela to facilitate the appointment of digital multimedia agency, Oryx Multimedia, to be appointed to review the department’s multimedia positioning.
“May you kindly facilitate the appointment of a consultancy company, Oryx Multimedia. I’ve attached the company profile for your perusal and request the star date to be 1 August 2019,” she said.
One of the duties of Oryx was to do monitoring of current affairs relevant to De Lille and provide strategic multimedia and communication advice. In another letter, dated June 28 2019, De Lille instructed Vukela to appoint a consultancy firm that specialises in
global superior facility and property management.