Amid a slew of allegations and mounting calls for her to resign, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille is expected to answer, yet again, questions on the controversial Beitbridge border fence.
On Tuesday, De Lille will be before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).
The committee is expected to deliberate on the R40 million border fence with De Lille, Auditor-General Kimi Makwethu’s office, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), technical experts of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC), and the Department of Defence.
In early September, Scopa and the Portfolio Committees on Public Works and Infrastructure and Home Affairs undertook an oversight visit to the border.
It found the 40km border fence was not fit for purpose and construction of the fence was a wasteful expenditure.
The committees emphasised that a 37-year-old secondary fence, decommissioned in 1994, was still in a better physical condition and highlighted that the new fence was of poor quality.
Despite the damning findings, De Lille thanked the committees for their support and vowed disciplinary action against those involved.
The Beitbridge border fence project was initiated by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure in mid-March.
But, several months after completion, investigators uncovered a cesspool of irregularities.
At least 115 breaches were detected, which may have resulted in an “untold number” of unlawful crossings between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The technical assessment also found that significant elements of the border fence project were not implemented at all.
The design of the fence had a height of 2.2m, but the final, actual height of the fence reached no more than 1.8m on either side of the border.
This made crossing the border into South Africa much easier. Investigations also found that the government paid R17 million more than the market-related cost for the fence.
During a Scopa meeting in August, National Treasury hinted that De Lille “had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind” for the border fence project.
Of concern to the National Treasury was De Lille’s directive, which stated the department’s chief financial officer (CFO) “shall be advised as to the costs” of the project.
CFOs are ordinarily in charge of finances, and costs are determined based on the needs of a project.
De Lille had even more brickbats thrown at her when she suspended the department’s director-general, Sam Vukela.
Vukela has applied to have his suspension set aside and, in court papers, claimed that De Lille interfered in tender processes and placed undue pressure on officials.
De Lille, who has denied any wrongdoing, has called on those with evidence to come forward.