No finding against De Lille in Beitbridge Border fence project saga

Patricia de Lille
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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) says it has made no finding against Public Works Minister, Patricia de Lille, for her role in the Beitbridge Border fence project.

The SIU and Treasury presented to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Tuesday.

Members of Parliament wanted to know the extent of De Lille’s involvement in the project, asking if she would resign if found to have been complicit.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa, De Lille’s department worked swiftly to repair parts of the Beitbridge Border fence. It is the main entryway for illegal immigrants to cross the border from Zimbabwe. But from the get-go, the project was riddled with mismanagement.

The SIU on Tuesday told SCOPA that not only was the administrative process dodgy, but the fence itself was not in compliance with the original plan.

115 breaches of the fence were uncovered, where numerous unlawful crossings could have occurred. The aim of the project was to strengthen the country’s border in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading.

14 departmental officials have been found to have acted inappropriately and the contractor and principal agent on the project were appointed irregularly.

De Lille’s oversight of the project was also questioned. “The fence is not fit for purpose and current payments in this regard may already be regarded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” said SIU Chief National Investigations Officer Leonard Lekgetho.

De Lille responded, “I do want to be held accountable. I will never run away from accountability. But of course like the members say, the buck stops with me. When it comes to procurement, if there is any evidence that I have personally benefitted from this particular tender, then please you must bring the evidence.”