DIESEL GOES MISSING: THE NEW AGE

Massive theft of fuel at an Eastern Cape municipality has caused service delivery to grind to a halt.

Bad roads haven’t been fixed as there was no diesel to run the equipment. The missing fuel had not been recorded in the fuel logbook nor had it been monitored for proper usage, it is alleged.

Thousands of litres of fuel were unaccounted for in the Eastern Cape department of roads and transport, because the Joe Gqabi district municipality failed to monitor the use of fuel properly.

Inside departmental sources, who spoke to The New Age on conditions of anonymity, claimed that fuel was being stolen from the municipality, which meant that road repair machinery lay idle so roads were not being repaired. According to the sources, in September last year the Joe Gqabi municipality received 39000 litres of fuel, procured at a total cost of R848754, and in January this year the order was repeated. However, there were no records verifying the transaction or the use of the diesel for road construction equipment in the municipality.

In addition, a “Wingen” milling machine, purchased at a cost of R6m early in 2010, has stood idle alongside a road to Coffee Bay. It has never been used because departmental staff do not know how to operate the machine.

The Joe Gqabi district has seven construction vehicles, but only two were working last year.

The rest were not being used due to the lack of diesel or because there were no drivers.

A source also claimed that a heavy duty road blading vehicle supposedly consumed 2500 litres of diesel per month, calculated as an average of four kilometres a day equalling 200 litres a day, for 12.5 days of the month.

“This claim is not correct; in fact, the machine could not have consumed this amount of diesel,” said the source.

The New Age was told by the source that the district consumed a total of 4375 litres of fuel per month, from the 39 000 litres delivered to the district in September 2010. The next fuel delivery was in January 2011 for the same total of 39 000 litres.

But since only 13125 litres of fuel were used in the three-month period to January 2011 for the two graders, no one knows what happened to the rest of the fuel from the September delivery.

The source was concerned that the lack of fuel for the road repair equipment meant delays in road development in the province.

This would have knock-on effects, as the lack of public and commercial transport to sustain and develop new markets stymied business growth, and meant jobseekers would remain unemployed.

The DA’s spokesperson on roads in the province, Dacre Haddon, wrote a letter on Wednesday to the MEC for transport, roads and public works, Thandiswa Marawu, asking her to do a forensic audit of Joe Gqabi district municipality’s fuel usage.

In the letter the DA asked the Marawu to investigate fuel usage in all district municipalities in the province and to report back to the portfolio committee on roads in the Bhisho legislature “as soon as possible”.

“Should it be found that fuel mismanagement has indeed taken place, I shall propose that the committee consider laying criminal charges against those responsible for the disbursement and recording of fuel usage in the province,” said Haddon.

Provincial spokesperson for transport Ncedo Kumbaca did not respond to questions sent to him.

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