Times Select 09 September 2019

It cost Gauteng province more than R620m to not build eight schools and six clinics.

Times Select has established the Gauteng department of infrastructure development budgeted more than R620m for 14 construction projects, but all it has to show for this is terminated contracts and shoddy or incomplete workmanship.

One of these projects dates back to 2015, while the other 13 tenders were awarded in 2017.

Now the Gauteng legislature’s portfolio committee on infrastructure development has ordered MEC Tasneem Motara and the head of department to take action against the contractors who failed to complete the projects.

More than 40 companies have been implicated. Their names have not been released.

Committee chairperson Mpho Modise said the department was given until mid-September to provide a list of projects that were not completed, and asked what steps it took to deal with this.

“Since money has been paid, we suspect fraud and corruption … And that is why we call for the department to rope in the NPA in this matter,” said Modise, who could not give the exact amount of money that had been paid for the projects worth more than R620m.

The 14 projects include the construction of four new clinics, renovations to the psychiatric ward at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital and the upgrading and re-engineering of a ward at Far East Rand Hospital. These projects were all worth more than R255m – but most were abandoned because of the “contractor’s poor performance”.

One contract, to build the Boitumelo clinic in Sebokeng in the Vaal Triangle, was “terminated due to community disruptions”, the document containing the list of projects says.

Times Select visited the Sebokeng site of a project worth R66m and found an open field, with some earthwork done. Security guards at the site said it was left abandoned in early 2018 after the community demanded employment on the project.

Two Sebokeng residents, Mafikeng Mofokeng and Bheki Mpshe, who were hired as construction workers, said very few locals were given jobs. 

“The trouble started when locals discovered that the company came with its own employees instead of hiring locals … The community chased them away,” said Mpshe.

Also on the list of 14 abandoned projects is construction work at seven schools and a Driver-Learner Testing Centre. These were worth R373m, and were mainly halted because the contractors failed to meet their contractual obligations.

A visit to the Sebokeng Driver-Learner Testing Centre (DLTC) showed a vandalised building with two security officers on site. A security officer told Times Select the building had been stripped bare by the community.

“Paving bricks have been stolen in bakkies’ loads,” she said.

In October 2015, former Gauteng MEC for roads and transport Dr Ismail Vadi launched the Sebokeng DLTC construction project. According to a department’s report, the contractor left the site unattended until its contract was terminated.

The list also shows the construction of Tinasonke Primary School was abandoned after it was discovered that the site was not suitable for construction “due to a SASOL gas pipeline adjacent to the site”, according to the document containing the list of projects.

Modise said the committee was of the view that the contractors’ failure to do the work they were paid for was “devastating”. 

“We have requested the department to take legal remedial action or/and refer the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority when faced with situations where contractors fail to perform work in accordance with their contractual agreements,” Modise said.

He said the practice of simply blacklisting such companies did not make a real difference.

Modise acknowledged the department was at fault for not monitoring the projects and sometimes not paying the contractors on time. 

“The committee expressed serious concerns about the inability of the department to pay some contractors on time which sometimes lead to poor workmanship and failure to conclude projects on time,” Modise said.

Gauteng infrastructure development spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu declined to comment, saying Motara would address questions from Times Select at a media briefing on Tuesday.  

Gauteng health spokesperson Philani Mhlungu said the department had prioritised all the support for the projects to be finished.

“The MEC … has also visited some of the projects with a view to unlocking any challenges. There has since been a commitment from all parties to speed up the process. The clinics, once finished, will strengthen the primary healthcare approach and will alleviate the pressure that our facilities are experiencing,” Mhlungu said.

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