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Public works, SIU declare war on infrastructure tender corruption

Public works minister Patricia de Lille and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head advocate Andy Mothibi on Monday launched the Infrastructure Built Anti-corruption Forum (IBACF) in Cape Town, which aims to “effectively” monitor infrastructure projects and put measures in place to detect and prevent corruption.

“The forum will bring a level of transparency and give credibility to the infrastructure investment plan. We need all hands on deck. We bring together all stakeholders, private sector [and] state institutions to work with us. Corruption is causing a trust deficit between government and investors. We need to fix it,” De Lille said.

“We must show that the government is capable of holding the corrupt to account,” she added. 

In May 2020, cabinet approved the creation of South Africa’s infrastructure investment plan as part of economic reconstruction and recovery initiatives. The plan seeks to boost growth in the battered economy and create jobs. 

About R10-million has been set aside to ensure the working of the forum across an industry that is known for high levels of corruption.

Mothibi said that, based on SIU investigations under various proclamations over the years, it was found that the construction sector was vulnerable to “price fixing, high Construction Industry Development Board grading[s] issued to non-deserving contractors, and issuing of illegal environmental permits for large developers to develop in sensitive environmental areas”.

The state was also defrauded via the use of substandard construction material in order to increase profits, and by the facilitation of bribes and kickbacks.  

“The current value of alleged irregularities investigated by the SIU in the infrastructure built investigations is to date totalling over R10-billion. It will be very important that transparency is introduced in the infrastructure build procurement process and that an effective corruption risk framework is introduced,” Mothibi said.

He said the forum would “ensure that we identify areas of co-operation to enhance prevention, detection, civil litigation and prosecution of fraud and corruption in the sector”. 

“The IBACF consists of diverse stakeholders which will assist in resolving corruption allegations speedily. These include law enforcement agencies, civil society, regulators, government departments and [the] private sector,” he said.

It was agreed that one of the main tasks of the forum would be looking into incentivising whistle blowers and rewarding such for making available information that leads to the successful prosecution of offenders.  

The SIU has been mandated with implementing corruption prevention programmes and undertaking corruption-vulnerable sector risk assessments (CSRAs) in sectors that have been identified as vulnerable to fraud and corruption. 

Mothibi said it was through the CSRAs that it was established that the infrastructure and construction sector required immediate attention. 

De Lille said her department would require quarterly reports on the progress in investigations. 

“We have established a forum steering committee. It will also monitor referrals and ensure we fast-track those. We must invest more money and time in prevention, rather than having commissions of inquiry later, when the damage has been done. We are determined to continue delivering good infrastructure for our people without corruption,” she said. 

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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