South Africa News

Patricia de Lille: Special adviser to face disciplinary hearing over Beitbridge fence

A special adviser to Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille will soon face the music for her role in the procurement of the Beitbridge border post fence.

De Lille said she has received legal advice to push ahead with a disciplinary hearing for Melissa Whitehead, who has not been placed on suspension.

De Lille was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Samantha Graham, who asked about the progress made in finalizing the disciplinary case against a certain person Whitehead after being implicated in the Beitbridge border fence.

De Lille said she had requested the state attorney to appoint the initiator and chairperson for the ensuing disciplinary process.

“An initiator and chairperson have been appointed by the state attorney. The initiator has prepared draft charges against Ms Melissa Whitehead,” she said.

The minister also said she interacted with the initiator on December 9, 2020, February 27, 2021, and April 1, 2021.

She also said she had met with both the initiator and the state attorney in December 2021 to finalise the charge sheet.

“To this end, charges have been finalized and will be presented to Ms Whitehead in due course.”

De Lille said the reason for the delay in disciplinary proceedings emanated from one of the implicated officials taking the matter on review, leading to a postponement of the proceedings.

“I have since received legal advice that I can go ahead with the disciplinary proceedings. The charge sheet is now finalised by the initiator and will be served on her by March 30,” she said, adding that the disciplinary hearing dates would be set for April.

De Lille confirmed that Whitehead has not been placed on suspension.

In March 2020, De Lille issued a directive to the department to appoint a service provider to use an emergency procurement process to erect the border fence on the Beitbridge border post.

However, an investigation found that the fence at R40.4m – which consisted of R37.1m payment to the contractor and R3.25m to a professional agent – was overpriced by R14m.

It also revealed a series of procurement and other irregularities, including R21.8m upfront payment to the contractor and R1.8m to the principal-agent when construction had not started.

The department was found to have failed to test the market to determine a reasonable contractor and pricing.

-Political Bureau

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