Parliament’s joint committee on financial management received a progress report on the investigation into the cause of the January 2 fire and any action and plans by the Department of Public Works.
The department appointed auditors BDO to probe the slow progress on Prestige refurbishment projects, such as the refurbishment of the NCOP building. The investigation included electrical installations, work on the Parliamentary precinct, upgrades of office buildings, routine maintenance of Parliamentary Villages and structural repairs to the Old Assembly Wing.
The assessment was completed in October 2020. BDO presented the report to the department and Parliament on 26 November 2020. It was then sent to secretary of Parliament Baby Tywala the next day. The department also shared it with National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula on 28 September 2021.
In a press statement last year, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille accused officials in her department of hiding the BDO report from her.
De Lille said: “The Acting DG confirmed to me in writing on 17 September that the relevant senior officials failed to submit the report to me after they had been sitting on it since receiving the final report in November 2020. Unfortunately due process was also not followed during the post audit phase through the failure by the department’s Construction Management Branch to produce an action plan to address the audit findings.”
An inspection visit by investigators in 2020 found “cable hangers in roof void plant room have protruding bolts which could cause injury, especially as the lighting is not working and one has to duck when walking underneath the cable hangers,” read the report.
In another inspection in the NCOP building, there were unsafe construction practices noted, where workers “did some grinding next to spilled turpentine on a wooden floor, without the presence of any fire equipment or observed supervision. “
The fire extinguishers were checked and it was found that the fire equipment servicing was out of date. The fire exit doors were unsafe as there were no signs to indicate how to open the door fitted with a magnetic lock.
Furthermore, the remainder of the emergency escape push bar lock was broken.
“The effect of this is that a fire could spread through the service shafts between floors, like whathappened at 9/11 [attack on Twin Towers in the US]. Injuries and fatalities could happen during a fire,” the report read.
BDO recommended that Parliament buildings be reviewed by a fire consultant.
The City of Cape Town preliminary report also revealed inefficiencies and that the sprinklers had not been serviced since 2017.
The Department of Public Works on Friday told members of the committee on financial management that an engineer had been approached to provide guidance on the appointment of a fire consultant.
The department said investigations into the January 2 blaze by the Hawks continued, and that it was still an active crime scene.