Children denied new schools as Department fails to pay contractors

The Department of Public Works owes contractors attending to the upgrading and construction of schools in the Eastern Cape in excess of R 104 million, which has led to the suspension and imminent suspension of 37 school projects. The Department also owes consultants on these projects a further R9 million.

This means learners continue to suffer in overcrowded classrooms, prefabricated structures that reach boiling point in summer and generally poor conditions that are not conducive to a learning environment.

These revelations came from a shocking response to written questions by the DA in the legislature from MEC for Public Works, Pemmy Majodina.

In her response Majodina explained that the default on payments was because the department was merely the implementing agent for the Department of Education, who had not paid them.

Majodina said the Department of Public Works would not be able to pay the contractors until Education paid them.

SEE: Reply IQP 40 qq 542

According to the response, the breakdown of projects per region are as follows:

  • OR Tambo: Three projects are owed a total of R6,065 million
  • Chris Hani: Eight projects are owed a total of R18,982 million
  • Sarah Baartman: Six projects are owed a total of R22,345 million
  • Amathole: Seven projects are owed a total of R25,345 million
  • Alfred Nzo: Four projects are owed a total of R21,906 million
  • Joe Gqabi: Nine projects are owed a total of R15,585 million

A full breakdown of the status of each project can be found here.

SEE: Annexure qq 542

After severe pressure applied by the Democratic Alliance through statements, letters and parliamentary questions over the past months, it must be noted that the Department has started payment, in tranches, to the 80 contractors that are owed money.

It is the DA’s understanding that the first tranche of payments have been made, and that the second tranche is expected to be paid by the end of November.

The DA however fears that it is only a matter of time before we are again in the same situation. Clearly the system of operation in terms of payment from client departments to implementing departments is failing.

It is high time that government starts to focus on service delivery models that focus on speeding up service delivery and responsible governance.

This inexcusable failure by the ANC-run government to honour payment to these contractors have has a knock-on effect on contractors, sub-contractors, consultants, local labourers and to the learners at the affected schools.

Local labourers rely on these projects to put food on the table. Learners are left going to school on unfinished construction sites, which is not conducive to learning and is extremely dangerous.

The entire provincial government has a duty to ensure that a situation like this never reoccurs in the Eastern Cape.

Only a DA-government will focus on speeding up service delivery ensuring a government that is accountable, transparent and responsible.