Patricia De Lille: But, Mr President, there's more...
14 September 2020
The Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa last week to ask him to take action against the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille on the basis of several allegations of political meddling in her Department. The allegations are serious – some from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and National Treasury, while others form part of a legal wrangle between her and the Director-General of the Department, Advocate Sam Vukela.
There has been no response yet from the Presidency. Maybe he is still not convinced that Minister De Lille’s interference in her Department is part of a pattern of political meddling and that she is, by law, prohibited in interfering with the functioning of the Department.
Perhaps, some additional examples will assist the President in his deliberations.
For example, the Minister’s former Legal Advisor was tasked by the Minister with attempting to mediate a dispute between the Independent Development Trust (IDT) and a contractor while the two entities were involved in litigation. The SIU report on the matter had already instructed the Department to list the contractor and other related companies on the database as companies that should not be used for government business. Following legal advice, the former CEO of the IDT, Coceko Pakade, informed the Minister’s Legal Advisor in writing that they were “concerned about a process of mediation being initiated with persons … that have engaged in fraud, fronting and other illegal activities…”. It is inconceivable that any mediation process by the Minister should have been attempted under such circumstances.
On 6 July 2020, Melissa Whitehead, Special Advisor to the Minister sent an email to a member of the Bid Adjudication Committee recommending the appointment of a specific company to determine the need for regulations for the Infrastructure Development Act. The ensuing Bid Adjudication process found that this company was not administratively responsive and could, therefore, not be considered for appointment. Yet, according to Whitehead, her investigations had revealed that this was the most suitable company and that they should be appointed for the job.
Further evidence of ministerial interference relates to a R10 million payment to a service provider who approached the Minister directly for her assistance in March 2020. Correspondence between the Minister’s Community Liaison Officer and departmental officials indicate that pressure was placed on the staff of the Regional Office to effect the payment - once again an overreach from the Executive Authority. Matters such as this should be handled by the Accounting Officer, not the Minister’s office and yet there is no evidence of any correspondence with the Director-General in attempting to resolve this issue.
It is abundantly clear that Minister De Lille does not understand the function of her office which is the formulation of policy, not the implementation thereof. Her use of her advisors to issue instructions to department officials, as already identified by the SIU in their report on the Beitbridge fiasco is a breach of the Principles of Public Administration and Financial Management Delegations (Cabinet Memorandum 56 of 2013). We cannot have a Minister attempting to usurp the functions of her officials, especially when such actions have already resulted in wasteful and irregular expenditure running into millions of rands.
Despite her protestations to the contrary, Minister De Lille is guilty of ongoing interference in her Department and shows absolutely no remorse or any sign of stopping.
She must be stopped.
Issued by Samantha Graham-Maré, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, 14 September 2020