Roads and Public Works MEC Thandiswa Marawu must urgently investigate alleged unauthorised expenditure of at least R6-million that was paid to a contractor of the still uncompleted Jubilee Park Primary School in Uitenhage.
Learners are still in asbestos and prefab structures, despite the appointment of a contractor by the Department of Roads and Public Works in August 2014. The original completion date was October 2016, it was then moved to March 2017, then to July 2017, followed by September 2017. At this stage, the completion date is April 2018.
On investigation, the Democratic Alliance found out that the contractor has not been on site since November last year and only returned with a small staff complement this week. In terms of documentation received, the reason that no work had been done since last year was that the contractor allegedly claimed an additional R6-million for a 58-day delay. It was claimed the delay was due to labour unrest and local labour strikes, which entitles the contractor to an adjustment. However, according to a mediator’s report, the contractor was only entitled to an amount of R649 000.
According to reports, the department paid the R6-million without waiting for the mediator’s report. The fact that the Department paid an amount of over R5.3-million more than what is stipulated in the mediator’s report is indicative of gross negligence, resulting in a massive amount of unauthorised expenditure as this was never part of the contract.
I submitted legislature questions to the MEC this week to obtain more information about the alleged delays and expenditure of this project.
It has transpired that the contractor is allegedly also claiming additional funds in connection with the R6-million settlement, of almost R1-million. It is also alleged that the contractor is demanding that penalties incurred of almost R2-million be reversed. Until the department complies with the demands of the contractor, no work will be done to complete work at the school, while the learners continue to suffer.
It is unclear whether the department will also comply with the additional claims of the contractor, and also, if these claims are met, which new claims will be made to the department.
The situation has reached a breaking point as a lack of leadership in the department has resulted in these unacceptable delays, large amounts of unauthorised expenditure, non-delivery of a completed school to a client-department (Education) and learners that have to sit in prefabs and asbestos buildings on a construction site.
The learners deserve more. The DA in the legislature remains dedicated to executing its oversight role on the provincial government departments and to holding them to account.
Vicky Knoetze, MPL
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