Wednesday, 09 March 2022

Johannesburg: The Special Tribunal has ordered that the companies contracted to construct the 40km long Beitbridge border fence pay back any profits received for the project.

The construction of the fence was done as part of the emergency COVID-19 procurement during 2020 but soon after it was erected; it fell apart – prompting a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation.

The investigation yielded evidence of irregularities in the awarding of the contracts to companies Caledon River and Profteam CC, including advance payments amounting to at least R21 million.

At least R40 million had been set aside for the project.

In her ruling, Judge Lebogang Modiba said the state and public were the “biggest losers” in the case and suggested that state officials also be held accountable for their actions.

“They have been deprived of the variety of public, social and economic benefits that flow from a solid border track at the Beit Bridge border and are saddled with a deficient border fence.

“Further corrective measures lie in holding the officials who designed, approved and implemented the Beitbridge Border Fence Project and its related procurement process and those who failed to take the appropriate steps to enhance the integrity of the fence,” Judge Modiba said.

She added that the order presents fair relief to all the parties involved.

“In the present circumstances, this relief…vindicates the values of fairness, equity, transparency, competitiveness and cost effectiveness that were disturbed when the [companies] were awarded the contracts unlawfully.

“It also entrenches the rule of law by ensuring that while the [companies] are not left worse of as a result of the invalidation of the contracts, they also do not benefit from unlawful contracts,” she said.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the corruption-busting unit welcomed the judgement, which also ordered the two companies furnish the tribunal with “audited financial statements and debatement of account reflecting their respective income and expenditure in the contracts, supported by expert report.”

“Furthermore, the Special Tribunal ordered that [the companies] payback profits earned within 30 days of submitting the income and expenditure report. In the event of dispute in profits, the parties have been ordered to approach the Special Tribunal for an appropriate order on supplemented papers as necessitated by the circumstances.” he said.

Department welcomes Beitbridge border fence judgement

The Department of Public Works & Infrastructure (DPWI), has welcomed the judgement handed down with regards to the Beitbridge Border fence project.

This as the department and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had sought just and equitable relief in terms of section 172(1)(b) of the Constitution, including an order seeking to divest the contractors (Caledon River Properties (Pty) Ltd and Profteam CC) from any profits derived from the contracts relating to the 40km long fence.

With regards to these further corrective accountability measures, the DPWI’s Acting Director General, Imtiaz Fazel, confirmed that in February 2022 the State concluded its case in the majority of disciplinary hearings against the implicated DPWI employees.

The defendant employees are scheduled to finalise their response to the State’s case by the 8th April 2022.

In addition to these disciplinary processes, the acting Director General, has offered the Engineering Council of South Africa the DPWI’s full co-operation to investigate the conduct of professional engineers within and contracted or sub-contracted to the DPWI in this matter.

“I wish to assure our employees and the wider public that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is committed to clean governance and enacting consequence management where necessary. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance and bravery of the State’s witnesses from the DPWI, SIU and National Treasury in last month’s disciplinary hearings.

“As the DPWI works to improve delivery, communication and consequence management, we are seeking to play our part in rebuilding the confidence and trust that South Africans have in their government.” said Fazel.