Public Works tenders will be open to public scrutiny, says De Lille

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Patricia de Lille says a clean-out is underway in her department, with thousands of cases currently before the Special Investigations Unit. Picture: Moneyweb

In a move to curb corruption related to government leases, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille has announced that all new tenders issued by her department will be “open for public scrutiny” – from the evaluation of tender documents to the adjudication.

“We are dealing with public assets, so the public must be allowed to scrutinise tender procedures and how we manage these public assets,” she told property and construction industry professionals attending a Property Sector Charter Council (PSCC) seminar in Sandton on Thursday. “This is linked to rooting out fraud and corruption.”

De Lille says the department has serious challenges, especially around supply-chain management and procurement, but that a clean-out is underway. “Currently we are dealing with 2 325 cases that are before the SIU [Special Investigations Unit]. The SIU has completed about half of those cases and has instructed us to recover more than R403 million.

“I am making an appeal to the property industry, if you are involved, we are going to expose you because you are paying the corrupt officials in the department.”

The minister says her department is the custodian of more than 89 000 buildings and 29 000 pieces of land on behalf of the public of SA, adding that it needs to ensure that public land and public assets are “used for the public good”.

She has appealed for support and input from the property and construction sector to work together with the department to improve transformation in the industry, in addition to rooting out corruption.

“A lot of the time, the corruption in the public sector is fed with money coming from the private sector. So when President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks about ethical leadership in the public sector, we also need ethical leadership in the private sector. Together we can confront the scourge of corruption in South Africa.”

Good news for property companies

De Lille says issues experienced by property companies in renewing leases with the department – sometimes over the course of two to three years due to government officials wanting bribes – would come to an end under her watch.

She went to the extent of giving out her cell number, saying that people are welcome to contact her to report such cases.

The minister’s undertaking to curtail delays on lease renewals will be music to the ears of listed property companies like Delta Property Fund and Rebosis, which have been badly affected by bureaucratic delays in the Department of Public Works in recent years. Delta has an especially high exposure to public sector leases.

De Lille says her department is also working to finally sort out its asset register. A private company has already been appointed to help verify the register and provide data to enable the department to make better informed decisions.

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Suren Naidoo, Moneyweb