Bhisho Precinct pipedream costs taxpayers millions with nothing to show

Issued by Nqaba Bhanga, MPL
DA Eastern Cape Provincial Leader

Nearly a decade later and with R38,5 million already spent, the only thing to show for the provincial government’s Bhisho Precinct pipedream is a patch of vacant land and empty promises.

The staggering amount already spent on this failed project was revealed in response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance, by Premier Oscar Mabuyane.

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This catalytic project would see seven provincial departments that currently rent office space in Buffalo City relocate to newly built government-owned offices in Bhisho, saving significantly on rental expenditure.

In the previous financial year, the provincial government spent more than R200 million on leases.

Bhisho is the administrative capital of the province, and it does make economic sense for the government to own its own offices. Not only will this save the government money, but centralised offices will also improve operational efficiencies.

However, the precinct pipedream appears to be stillborn. Having already spent over R20 million on concept designs and plans, no one wants to build it.

While the Premier claims the project was only initiated in 2015, the precinct was already presented as part of a multi-billion-rand upgrade for Bhisho as far back as March 2013. Construction was supposed to begin in 2016, taking three years to complete.

Premier Mabuyane revealed that the first two bids to secure a developer failed dismally, with not a single bid submitted. The third bid had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 regulations and changes in space requirements.

The fourth attempt to get the project off the ground is currently underway, with a closed bid to SOEs expected to be finalised in September. In the event that this bid fails, Mabuyane says contingency plans are being put in place for an open bid to be published.

The project has also faced issues with bulk infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, with the National Water and Sanitation Department flagging the lack of bulk water and sanitation infrastructure to accommodate such a huge development in Bhisho.

Premier Mabuyane confirmed that there is not sufficient availability of supply of sanitation from the BCMM, but said the project made provision for a short-term onsite sanitation plant that would deal with the provision of sanitation.

With a shrinking revenue base, the government cannot afford to waste money. The DA will be closely monitoring the Bhisho Precinct going forward. We cannot afford further delays.