Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug 21, 2023 - The government is setting up a call centre for the "speedy reporting" of disruptions at construction sites, said Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala.
The minister was speaking at a briefing on Sunday, where he provided an update on the progress of key infrastructure projects as well as measures to tackle disruptions at construction sites, instigated by the construction mafia.
News24 previously reported on how the construction mafia - which grew out of two militant groups in KwaZulu-Natal and has since spread to all provinces – terrorise building sites, demanding a 30% stake in projects. They often rock up at these sites, armed and presenting themselves as business forums.
But on Sunday, Zikalala said that law enforcement agencies were prioritising these crimes. "There is a glimmer of hope that eventually we will win the war against those involved in extortion, hijacking and disruption of construction sites," he said.
"To assist the construction sector, we are establishing a call centre for speedy reporting of construction disruptions, and this will support the assigned law enforcement units to this priority crime," said Zikalala.
He said the call centre would ensure that information would be received as quickly as possible and those who reported disruptions, as well as contractors and their families, would be protected.
In July, Zikalala said that at least 605 suspects linked to the construction mafia had been arrested, City Press reported.
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Blacklisting service providers
During the briefing, Zikalala also shared steps the government was taking to introduce consequence management for contractors "short-changing" the state with their "shoddy workmanship and deceitful liquidation".
The department has appointed a Restriction Committee and Authority (RCAA) – consisting of people with expertise in legal services, construction, supply chain and security service, among others. The RCAA would consider cases brought to it to restrict certain service providers from doing business with the state over their failed performance on government contracts and also abusing the supply chain system.
If branches of the department were to face issues with a contractor, they would have to submit a motivation for restriction to the RCAA, who will then evaluate the case and make a decision. A contractor would also be allowed to make representation or give an explanation as to why they should not be restricted or blacklisted.
The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure will then recommend the restriction to the National Treasury. The Treasury would then consider the matter and make a final call.
"The periods for which a service provider can be restricted from doing business with government is up to a maximum of 10 years," Zikalala said.
So far, the department has recommended seven service providers to the Treasury for restriction. Some had successfully appealed their restrictions.
As an additional step to limit the risk of poor performance by some contractors, the department has recommended that the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) – which all contractors have to register with to do business with the state – strengthen requirements for its registration processes.
This is to whittle out "bogus" companies, as Zikalala described it.
"Some of the companies hold the registration certificate from the CIDB but are not qualified or at a level to undertake the scope of infrastructure work they are doing," said Zikalala.
The CIDB will have to also consider the technical capabilities of contractors to undertake work for the state. Zikalala said underperforming contractors and those involved in corruption must be removed from the CIDB's register of contractors.
The department has also asked that the CIDB establish an ombudsman office to resolve disputes in the construction industry.
The department is also looking to recover its lost, stolen and "illegally occupied" properties in a project known as Operation Bring Back.
The department is working with the Special Investigating Unit, the National Prosecuting Authority, and the SA Police Service and will make use of the courts to prosecute those that have stolen state land.
"We will investigate, detect, prosecute, recover and resolve the potential misappropriation of state land and buildings," said Zikalala.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, August 24, 2023
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