DPWI must take responsibility for public infrastructure - Committee

Chairperson says they're going to be very hard on dept to fix maintenance of public buildings

Public Works Department must take responsibility for dilapidated public infrastructure, says committee chair

27 January 2021

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has resolved to summon the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to Parliament to respond to complaints of alleged failure to maintain public buildings, such as courts and prisons.

The committee visited the Barberton Correctional Centre and Community Corrections as part of its week-long oversight visit to courts and correctional centres, to assess correctional centres’ rehabilitation, skills development and integration programmes.

The committee heard complaints about the lack of maintenance at facilities including fire extinguishers that have been allowed to expire or have not been serviced.

Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe: “What will happen if there is a fire and prisoners die here? What is going to the perception about South Africa? We don’t want another Life Esidimeni. We are going to be very hard on DPWI. We will invite the Director-General to explain why there are these types of complaints about court buildings and prisons, while there are people employed every day.”

The Chairperson also questioned whether this alleged negligence on the part of DPWI is possibly a threat to national security.

The department committed to address some of the challenges using emergency interventions, which often require deviations from normal procurement processes. The committee heard that because there are no long-term maintenance plans, ad hoc work is done, which often requires emergency procurement. The portfolio committee questioned the financial implications of the on-going use of emergency interventions.

“So the tendency is to always throw money at every problem instead of looking at our own capacity. The financial challenges of the country are being complicated by us not being innovative. It is not fair for South Africans to sustain negligence and laziness,” said Chairperson Magwanishe.

Nonetheless, the portfolio committee commended the Department of Correctional Services’ skills development programmes, saying these will ensure offenders leave institutions with useful skills.

Issued by Sakhile Mokoena on behalf of Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, 27 January 2022