Cyril urged to pursue schools’ lost R1.1bn

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Siyabulela Duda / File

President Cyril Ramaphosa should sign a proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to investigate what happened to R1.1bn meant to build prefab classrooms and schools in the Eastern Cape.

The call was made during a meeting of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) at the Bhisho legislature on Thursday.

The Eastern Cape departments of transport, public works, education and health were called to account for the late payment of contractors. Scopa chairman Max Mhlati said the committee had concerns over late payments.

“The delays in payment are against government’s efforts to support black emerging contractors. We want accountability pertaining to delays in payments of projects. Contractors have to plead for payment of work they have done,” he said.

Office of the premier committee chairman Sicelo Gqobana fired the first salvo when he wanted to know where the R800m meant to deliver prefabs to certain schools had gone. He said public works was supposed to deliver the prefabs in the 2013-14 financial year but they were never delivered. It emerged that another amount of R300m had been paid for the construction of schools that were never built.

“Those who were paid and were supposed to have done the work must come and explain what happened and the money [must be] recovered.”

Safety and liaison committee chair Michael Peter wanted to know which law-enforcement agencies had been roped in to investigate the spending of money.

“We know from school visits that infrastructure challenges are very serious. Now we are seen as a government that does not care. The premier must request a proclamation from the president for the SIU to investigate this matter. We can’t just refer this case to the Bhisho police station,” he said.

Peter said corruption was rampant in the Eastern Cape and had a long chain, adding it was embarrassing oversight bodies such as the legislature.

Public works MEC Pemmy Majodina said the two payments formed part of an investigation by a private forensic investigation company, The iFirm.

Another department to come under fire was education after infrastructure planning director Thabang Monare said the department had its hand on the pulse of the projects.

“We have something called executive accountability where we get updates on projects from the implementing agents. We have a daily monitoring system in place,” he said.

Another ANC MPL, Mxolisi Dimaza, said he had pictures of new schools that were so shoddily built, that they had never been used.

Gqobana said the people who had been brought to answer questions were playing around. He disputed that there was daily monitoring of the projects. He added: “There is no such thing as Monare is saying here.

“All the buildings constructed by the homeland government are still standing but ours are crumbling,” Gqobana said.