De Lille warns crooks in construction industry will be dealt with harshly

24 May 2021 - 15:25 By nonkululeko njilo
Patricia de Lille says anyone found guilty of corruption must face the full might of the law. File photo.
Patricia de Lille says anyone found guilty of corruption must face the full might of the law. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

Public works minister Patricia de Lille has issued a stern warning to “crooks” implicated in corrupt activities within the built environment, costing the country billions, that they will be dealt with harshly. 

De Lille was speaking at the launch of the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF) by the anti-corruption task team on Monday alongside the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).  

The forum was established to monitor infrastructure projects more effectively and put systems in place to detect and prevent corruption. 

“Corruption within the built environment has run rampant for too long. The state has structures in place but government cannot do this work alone and that is why we have brought private sector, public entities and civil society together in this forum so that we can work together on more effective ways to detect, prevent and act against corruption.

We cannot allow the crooks to continue to steal billions meant for infrastructure. People, no matter who they are, cannot be allowed to continue to steal and stifle progress at the expense of the most vulnerable in our country,"
Patricia de Lille, minister of public works and infrastructure 

“Our people need better roads, hospitals, schools and generally better infrastructure for better services. We need better and more government buildings. We cannot allow the crooks to continue to steal billions meant for infrastructure. People, no matter who they are, cannot be allowed to continue to steal and stifle progress at the expense of the most vulnerable in our country,” she said. 

The establishment of the forum was in line with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) which was approved by cabinet in November last year to escalate the fight against corruption and fraud in the country.   

De Lille admitted that though the government had in place measures to combat corruption, it could not do so alone, hence the private sector had to be roped in.  

The forum is among other bodies made up of representatives from the National Prosecuting Authority, Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Financial Intelligence Centre, Corruption Watch, the Council for the Built Environment, Master Builders SA, the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) and Consulting Engineers SA (CESA).

“Anyone involved in corrupt activities and found guilty of such must face consequences, they must face the full might of the law. We must work together to put an end to this scourge because corruption steals from the poor. We also need a clear path to delivering quality infrastructure to create the crowding-in effect of more investment by the private sector,” she said.

Meanwhile, SIU head advocate Andy Mothibi said the construction sector was vulnerable to price fixing, awarding of tenders to non-deserving contractors and issuing of illegal environmental permits for large developers to develop in sensitive environmental areas.

Mothibi said there also was a tendency of defrauding the state through the use of substandard construction material to make more profit and facilitate bribery and kickbacks.

“The Infrastructure Build Anti-Corruption Forum will galvanise all stakeholders into action and ensure that infrastructure projects are monitored more effectively, put measures and systems in place to fight against fraud and corruption, and identify areas of co-operation to enhance prevention, detection, civil litigation and prosecution of fraud and corruption in the infrastructure build sector,” he said. 

Head of Infrastructure SA (ISA) Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said they had previously worked with the SIU in investigating cases. 

“Infrastructure SA has a well-established and good working relationship with the SIU. The official launch of this forum can only cement our working relations further to ensure greater transparency and accountability as we implement the country’s infrastructure build programme,” Ramokgopa said.

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