New forum to detect, prevent corruption in infrastructure sector

A newly established forum to monitor infrastructure projects more effectively and put systems in place to detect and prevent corruption has been launched in Cape Town.

Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) Minister, Patricia de Lille, and Head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), Advocate Andy Mothibi, launched the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF) on Monday, an initiative by the Anti-Corruption Task Team, government and civil society, together with the built environment sector.

De Lille said the initiative comes at a time when South Africa has embarked on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan, approved by Cabinet in May 2020. The plan forms an integral part of the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP).

“Cabinet has also approved the establishment of Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) as the administrative arm responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan which is made up of projects from all three spheres of government, state-owned enterprises and the private sector.

“It is against this background, that the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum has been initiated as a strategy to detect and prevent corruption in the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan because this plan cannot be derailed or affected by corruption in any way,” said de Lille.

The establishment of this forum is also in line with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), approved by Cabinet in November 2020, to help step up the fight against corruption and fraud in the country.

“The NACS pillar 6 puts emphasis on protection of vulnerable sectors, which direct that strategic interventions should be implemented in those sectors that are more prone and vulnerable to the incidents of fraud and corruption.

“[The] infrastructure and/or construction sector is one of the sectors that have been prioritised. The forum also aligns with one of the seven key priorities of the 6th administration, which is to build a capable, ethical and developmental state,” the Minister said.

She said corruption within the built environment has run rampant for too long. While the state has structures in place, government cannot do this work alone, de Lille said. That is why the private sector, public entities and civil society have been brought together in a forum to work together in more effective ways to detect, prevent and act against corruption.

“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. 

“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,” De Lille said.

Construction sector vulnerable to price fixing

Advocate Mothibi said that based on the SIU investigations under various proclamations over the years totalling over R10 billion to date, the construction sector is vulnerable to price fixing, high Construction Industry Development Board grading issued to non-deserving contractors, and issuing of illegal environmental permits for large developers to develop in sensitive environmental areas.

There is also an issue of defrauding the state through the usage of sub-standard construction material to make more profit and facilitation fees, bribery and kickbacks, amongst others.

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

Head of Infrastructure South Africa (ISA), Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, said that ISA has in the last year, upon request, worked with the SIU on some cases, and 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.