Speech notes by Vicky Knoetze MPL: Roads and Public Works oversight report on projects in Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani and Amathole Districts, 14 March 2018

Broken infrastructure is one of the largest contributors to our broken economy in the Eastern Cape.

  • It is the people that suffer when schools are not completed on time and it is the patients that suffer when hospitals are not completed on time by the DRPW as an implementing agent.
  • The DRPW is too flexible when it comes to revising contract completion dates and this is indicative of poor planning and appointing incompetent contractors.

Honourable Speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests, good afternoon.

Learners at Jubilee Park Primary School are still in asbestos and prefab structures after the Department of Roads and Public Works as the implementing agent appointed a contractor to start construction and additions to the school 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 closer investigation, it was found out that the contractor, has not been on site since November 2017 and only returned with a small staff compliment in February only. It came to light that the reason for the fact that no work has been done since last year was that the contractor was allegedly claiming an additional R 6 million for a 58-day delay in the contract due to labour unrest and local labour strikes which entitles the contractor to an adjustment. However, according to a mediator’s report, it was discovered that the contractor should only have been entitled to an amount of R 649 000.

Department of Roads and Public Works paid the R6-million without waiting for the mediator’s report. The fact that the Department paid an amount of over R 5.3-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.

It has now transpired that the contractor is allegedly also claiming additional funds in connection with the R6-million settlement which allegedly amounts to an amount of almost R1-million. It is also alleged that the contractor is demanding that penalties incurred which amounts to 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 and at the end of the day, it is the learners that will suffer.

Honourable Speaker, the Department cannot allow itself to be strong-armed by contractors that are making outrageous demands and operating outside the parameters of the contract.

The situation has reached a breaking point as a lack of leadership within the Department has resulted in these unacceptable delays, large amounts of unauthorised expenditure, non-delivery of a completed school to a client Department and learners that have to sit in prefabs and asbestos building on a construction site.

The committee last week asked the MEC to intervene as a matter of urgency in order to deliver a completed school building to the learners as soon as possible and investigate any unauthorised expenditure in terms of this project.

It has now come to light that the Department is imposing penalties on this contractor and is investigating the matter. I can only assume that this action was prompted by this committee and the questions that were submitted in January, we thank the MEC for taking up this matter and for her continued intervention to have this school completed for the client Department.

The DA encourages the MEC to please continue investigating projects where the completion date keeps on being revised, projects where penalties are not being imposed as well as projects where contractors are deliberately frustrating projects to make outrageous financial demands. Certain contractors seem to think that this Department is their personal piggy-banks.

Honourable Speaker, this report alone contains several projects where completion dates are being revised time and time again. The Department is much too flexible in allowing completion dates to be revised on the one hand and appointing contractors that are not capable on the other.

These projects include Dora Nginza Phase 1 and 2, Storms River Primary School, Kayser Ngwana Early Childhood Development Centre, Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School and Sabalele Road. Revising completion date is not only indicating that the Department is too flexible, it speaks of a lack of control over projects and it speaks of poor planning and it speaks of appointing unsuitable contractors. Honourable Speaker, revising completion dates has become a trend, it should be the exception rather than the rule.

We have spoken about putting systems in place to ensure that the Department does not appoint unsuitable and incapable contractors for years. Such as system will be the only way to safeguard the Department from contractors that cannot deliver, contractors that default on tenders and contractors that are incompetent. We don’t want to keep asking for this system for years, we don’t want to see this as a repetitive finding ever again.

Honourable Speaker, at the end of the day, it is the people that suffer when schools are not completed on time, at the end of the day it is the patients that suffer when hospitals are not completed on time. Honourable Speaker, at the end of the day all fingers are pointing at the Department of Roads and Public works as the implementing agent.

We must do better than this for the people of the Eastern Cape and we can only do so if the Department is taking seriously, if the Department safeguards itself against incompetence and being strong-armed and if the Department is less flexible in terms of the letter of the law and the contracts they enter into with service providers. The Department must improve on planning.

The Democratic Alliance remains dedicated to executing its oversight role on the Provincial departments and hold them to account to ensure that the people of the province or not disadvantaged by shortcoming within the Departments.

Thank You.