A month later, engineers still not appointed to assess parliament’s fire damage
MPs want public works and infrastructure department to answer complaints about failure to maintain public buildings
It’s almost a month since an inferno gutted parliament and the public works department is yet to appoint engineers to assess the damage and probe how the national legislature burnt down.
Acting public works and infrastructure director-general Imtiaz Fazel said on Wednesday that the process to appoint them was being concluded.
“Commencement of work is pending the appointment. We cannot provide any timelines at this stage,” he said.
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille said on January 7 that her department had put in place steps to procure an independent specialist engineering team to conduct further detailed assessment of the damage to the affected buildings and testing of material strength.
She said the National Treasury had agreed to expedite the process.
De Lille said that in consultation with the Hawks an internal public works professional team of skilled structural, civil, electrical and mechanical engineers conducted and concluded a high-level preliminary visual assessment of the damage, including safety of the site. The team arrived in Cape Town on January 3, the day after the blaze started.
While parliament and the police provided the engineers with access to the old and new assembly buildings, the heat and flare-up on the side of the National Assembly later that day prevented their inspection until late the next day, she said.
What will happen if there is a fire and prisoners die here? What is the perception [of]SA [going to be]? We don’t want another Life Esidimeni. We are going to be very hard on DPWI.Bulelani Magwanishe, chairperson, portfolio committee on justice and correctional services
“On the basis of the preliminary visual inspections there is evidence of severe structural damage (major spalling) to the slabs. The slabs affected by the damage are the second, third and fourth floor. In addition to the above there are major cracks in the walls on the second and third floor,” she said at the time.
De Lille said that the team recommended immediate closure of the new Assembly building to restrict access as it was unsafe.
The preliminary visual assessment report and photos were handed to the Hawks and could not be shared as they were evidence from a crime scene, said De Lille.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has resolved to summon the department of public works and infrastructure to respond to complaints of alleged failure to maintain public buildings, such as courts and prisons.
The committee said it visited the Barberton Correctional Centre and Community Corrections as part of a weeklong oversight visit to courts and correctional centres, to assess the prison’s rehabilitation, skills development and integration programmes.
The committee heard complaints about lack of maintenance at facilities, including fire extinguishers having expired or not being serviced.
Committee chair Bulelani Magwanishe was quoted in a parliamentary statement as saying: “What will happen if there is a fire and prisoners die here? What is the perception [of] SA [going to be]? We don’t want another Life Esidimeni. We are going to be very hard on DPWI.
“We will invite the director-general to explain why there are these types of complaints about court buildings and prisons while there are people employed every day.”
The department committed to address some of the challenges using emergency interventions, which often require deviations from normal procurement processes, according to the statement.
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