Construction company pleads innocence in R85-million border wall probe

22nd June 2021 By: News24Wire

A construction company involved in a R85-million border wall project in KwaZulu-Natal, which is the subject of a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) probe, is adamant that it is not complicit in corruption.

The ISF Group's Mandisa Buthelezi said the group welcomed the investigation and added that it would "cooperate with the SIU or any other inquiry to prove our innocence in this matter".

Last week, the SIU said it had been authorised to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport.

The investigation is focused on a tender awarded to ISF Construction and Shula Construction in 2018 for an eight-kilometre concrete barrier wall between the uMkhanyakude and Mozambique border.

"The SIU received allegations from an unnamed whistleblower, claiming that the transport department executed the project of constructing a concrete barrier, despite the legal mandate of such project resting with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure," SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said.

An October 2020 report found that only 166 metres of construction had been completed even though R48-million was paid to the contractor. The amount should have covered the cost of installing three kilometres of border wall, Kganyago added.

But Buthelezi said that construction process was not about "merely laying a fence".

The bulk of the work on the project is not the laying out of the wall, but rather the manufacturing of the slabs that make up the concrete barrier, Buthelezi said.

"The process requires us to build more than 6 500 slabs that weigh two tons each, and lay them out for eight kilometres. The excavation process in itself is intensive to say the least with 16 000 m3 to be dug out for the massive modules," he added.

"We are so proud to say that the project is 70% complete and will be handed over in October 2021 to the client."

The SIU investigation is aimed at determining whether the procurement and payments in relation to the construction of the barrier were fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective; or contrary to applicable legislation and guidelines issued by the National Treasury or the relevant provincial treasury.

"Like any business, we responded to an advert and subsequently prepared our submission. We felt we were adequately prepared for such an undertaking with the appropriate resources in our stable to fulfil the scope of work. The nuances of which department was meant to issue the tender is, quite frankly, not our business," Buthelezi said.