SIU probe into R85m Moz border barrier contract welcomed
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Durban - A SPECIAL Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the awarding of a multi-million rand tender for the construction of a concrete barrier in uMkhanyakude district has been widely welcomed by opposition parties in the KZN legislature.
The tender was awarded in 2018 for the construction of an 8 kilometre concrete wall between the uMkhanyakude municipality and Mozambique and there are allegations that although more than half of the R85 million had been paid to the contractor, less than a kilometre of the barrier had been constructed by the end of 2020.
The SIU has been given the go-ahead to investigate the matter through a proclamation by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The SIU said it had received allegations from an unnamed whistle-blower claiming that the Transport Department had executed the project of constructing a concrete barrier despite the legal mandate of such project being with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
It said the Public Works Department was the custodian of border infrastructure outlay and the maintenance thereof.
The aspects of the investigation will include whether:
* There had been any improper conduct by officials or department employees relating to the contract.
* The payments made to the contractor were equitable or cost-effective.
* There had been unauthorised, irregular and wasteful expenditure incurred by the department.
The proclamation authorises the corruption busting unit to use its legislative powers to subpoena bank statements and cellphone records, search and seize evidence, and interrogate witnesses under oath.
The IFP’s Blessed Gwala said they were encouraged by the move to investigate the tender.
“The SIU is moving in the right direction, mainly because government departments in this province have descended into corruption of unrivalled proportions and as the IFP we welcome this probe,” said the member of the provincial legislature (MPL).
He added that they hoped that the investigation would be one of many involving the department as there were suspicions that many other contracts had been awarded without following due process.
He noted that the Covid-19 lockdown had also been used as a shield to cover corruption.
“People are not doing any work citing the lockdown, but they have no problem in asking to be paid for work that has not been completed,” Gwala said.
DA MPL Sharon Goosen agreed that the probe was a welcome intervention.
She said during an oversight visit to the project they were not impressed by the pace of the construction.
“I am glad they (the SIU) are investigating the matter because on our visit there was a sense that the construction was far too expensive. From the word go this tender raised alarm bells and now we can get to know what really happened,” she said.
Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said they welcomed the proclamation.
“We will fully cooperate with all the investigating agencies on the matter,” he said.
The border on which the barrier is being constructed has long been fingered as a passageway for smuggling stolen vehicles, guns and other goods.