Beitbridge fiasco highlights drawbacks of tender system – NEHAWU

Union says govt should build its own internal capacity to undertake big projects

Beitbridge border fence fiasco further highlights drawbacks of tender system

5 September 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] calls on government to learn from the Beitbridge border fence fiasco that the tender system does nothing but to allow tenderprenuers to loot state resources meant to provide service delivery for our people.

The fence was constructed to stop the illegal movement of people between South Africa and Zimbabwe as part of interventions to fight COVID-19 by the South African government. However, the entire project was mired with tender irregularities and costs inflations. The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure management and leaders are busy with finger pointing while answers are not coming forth in relation to the outcomes of the Special Investigative Unit [SIU] investigation which revealed that costs for the project were inflated by R14 million.

Internal investigations uncovered allegations of procurement irregularities and fraud committed by departmental officials and service providers including cost inflation because of irregular application of the emergency procurement process. Contractors were paid before any building materials were delivered and before construction took place. A professional assessment of quantities, drawings and specifications showed they were not aligned. This lead to poor design and construction which compromised the effectiveness of the fence as a deterrent for crossing the South African border with Zimbabwe. The fence was only 1.8meters high instead of the specified 2.2meters, and barbed wire coils were stretched beyond their effective limit.

All these blunders and interference in the procurement processes further solidifies our call for our government to build its own internal capacity to undertake big projects. There is an urgent need to end outsourcing, agentisation, and privatisation in the public service to ensure that government is in charge of undertaking its core functions rather than to relegate them to the private sector. Moreover, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and policy enforcement must be implemented to guard against wasteful, fruitless and unauthorised expenditure including clamping down on corrupt tendencies in both government departments and State-Owned Enterprises [SOEs].

The Beitbridge fence fiasco is a mirror reflection of the corruption associated with the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment [PPEs] for frontline workers. Covidpreneurs benefitted from the outbreak of the coronavirus and exploited their close proximity to those in power to land contracts that they did not have the expertise to fulfil. Unfortunately, this has led to the death of many frontline workers because of substandard PPEs.

As NEHAWU, we hope that government will learn from these experiences and improve how it handles issues that affects service delivery. The national union will intensify its call for those involved or facilitated the plundering of state resources during the COVID-19 pandemic to face harsh punitive measures and to be named and shamed.

Issued by Khaya Xaba, National Spokesperson, NEHAWU, 5 September 2020