Government Precinct needs to be part of a revitalised Bhisho

Issued by Nqaba Bhanga, MPL
Shadow Eastern Cape Premier

The concept of a Bhisho Precinct, which is aimed at alleviating the issue of office space for several provincial departments, needs to include an integrated approach to revitalise Bhisho and King Williams Town.

Thousands of government employees will be expected to relocate to the Bhisho precinct, yet there is a drastic shortage of schools, clinics, accommodation and other vital services in the area.

What thought has been given to these employees’ quality of life? Where will their children go to school? What healthcare facilities are available? What recreational facilities are available over weekends?

Premier Oscar Mabuyane has indicated that he intends to proceed with the precinct, and is considering a public private partnership, which will see the private sector build the precinct at their own cost, and lease it back to government for a period of time, before handing it over.

During the last financial year, provincial government spent in excess of R238-million on office rental.

While the precinct would, over the long term, reduce expenditure on rental of office space, it does not make sense to centralise numerous government departments, without also addressing the other challenges in an area which has been so neglected by the current administration.

The project, launched in April 2017, initially went out to tender and 122 parties showed interest, but not one bid was submitted. This should be a clear indication on the viability of the project in its current form.

One of the initial delays in the rollout has been the inability of Buffalo City Metro to supply bulk infrastructure, leading to Public Works proposing, among others, an on-site sewerage solution.

If the bulk infrastructure cannot cope with the additional load from the proposed precinct during the day, what makes the administration think that the existing infrastructure will cope with the additional demands placed on it, due to the influx of government employees.

Both Bhisho and King Williams town are regularly beset with water and power outages, lack of basic municipal services such as refuse removal and disintegrating roads.

I will be submitting questions to the Premier and the MEC of Public Works, Babalo Madikizela, to determine the current status of the latest tender for the precinct, which was supposed to have closed in April 2019. I will also be asking for clear timeframes with regards to the anticipated construction and what integrated town planning, if any, has taken place.

The ongoing delays in getting the project off the ground means that more taxpayers money is being wasted on rented office space, which is spiralling out of control.

Instead of having a forward-thinking vision of reducing costs and increasing value for money in terms of public expenditure, the provincial ANC-run government remains short-sighted.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to hold the government to account to ensure that public money is spent in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The DA is committed to speeding up service delivery and ensuring a government that provides services to all its people, while being accountable and transparent.