Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

De Lille warns of delay in paying for services amid Covid-19 outbreak

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Mar 20, 2020

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Johannesburg - Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille has warned that paying service providers will be extremely challenging for the next five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not only this but the government is set to spend millions to install a fence at the Beitbridge border over the next month to ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country without being verified.

Briefing the media in Parliament on Thursday, De Lille said government departments would probably be unable to pay for services within the stipulated 30-day period.

“I have communicated this to the president to determine what solution we can come up with to assist in expediting payments for work done, or maybe (to look at) extending the payment authorisation period for the 2019-20 year beyond March 31,” she said.

This comes as most companies have closed shop and sent their staff home.

De Lille maintained that the turn of events would mean that service providers would have no revenue coming in for at least three months and perhaps for as long as five months.

“This means that there will be a delay in signing new contracts in the new financial year, meaning there is a slim possibility that they would be able to commence work in May and invoice in August, being paid 30 days later at the end of August 2020.”

Responding to questions, the minister said her department had already received numerous invoices.

“Before we pay, we have to verify that they actually delivered and we get value for money,” she said.

The minister was, however, hopeful that next week there would be advice on the matter when the Cabinet meets.

De Lille also revealed that her department was investigating allegations that a supplier was selling hand sanitiser to the public for R9.50 and for R79 to the government.

“We are busy investigating it. In fact, we have been alerted by a supplier that this is happening,” she said.

De Lille expressed her disgust that some suppliers were resorting to inflating prices.

“It is very painful for me that in a time when we need to unite and stand together, people see an opportunity to make more money,” she said.

She described the alleged inflated R79 sale of sanitiser to the government as being immoral.

De Lille called on the public to alert them to the unscrupulous suppliers and poor quality sanitisers.

The minister also told the media that her department had identified 37 state-owned properties that could be used as quarantine sites in various provinces.

“Some of these sites will be available to people in informal settlements where there are currently no such facilities available,” she said.

According to De Lille, teams in her department have been visiting all districts to assess the properties, and the sites have been communicated to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

She also announced that some provincial governments have already availed their properties to be used as quarantine centres.

Regarding the Beitbridge border fence, De Lille said that up to R37.2million would be spent to install a fence within a month at the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

She said she has invoked the emergency procurement procedures for the erection and repairs of the border fence.

“It was identified that a total of 40 kilometres of the 1.8-metre high fence has to be erected, 20 kilometres on either side of the Beitbridge border post.”

Meanwhile, her deputy minister, Noxolo Kiviet, said there was nothing preventing people from outside the country from entering the border posts.

“We limit people who access the country illegally. That is a threat not only to the surroundings, but to the whole country, hence the measures have to be taken,” she said.

De Lille also said the measure taken could not be viewed as xenophobic.

Political Bureau

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