R4.7 m to build these bro­ken toi­lets

Ablu­tion blocks, class­rooms and ad­min­is­tra­tion rooms cost mil­lions more than they should

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

This is the block of toi­lets built for the pupils of Dit­shipeng Pri­mary School, which cost the state an ex­or­bi­tant R4.7 mil­lion – and don’t work.

The toi­lets – which the hun­dreds of pupils at the school out­side Ku­ru­man, North­ern Cape, can­not use – are just one of many ex­am­ples of how con­struc­tion and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies are charg­ing the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment up to four times what they should be to build school in­fra­struc­ture.

Doc­u­ments in City Press’ pos­ses­sion re­veal that con­sult­ing firms – in­clud­ing ar­chi­tects, engi­neers and quan­tity sur­vey­ors – were paid R45 mil­lion in two years, al­most half of the R110 mil­lion the province has spent on school build­ings, not the 18% or less they are sup­posed to re­ceive.

Now of­fi­cials in the na­tional ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment are ask­ing ques­tions and an unof­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der way into what they got for the R110 mil­lion spent on toi­lets, com­puter rooms, ad­min­is­tra­tion blocks, school hos­tels and class­rooms.

What the doc­u­ments re­veal

The doc­u­ments show that the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, work­ing with the In­de­pen­dent De­vel­op­ment Trust (IDT), a gov­ern­ment im­ple­ment­ing agency, paid:

R4.7 mil­lion to a con­struc­tion com­pany and con­sul­tants for a block of 14 toi­lets at Dit­shipeng Pri­mary, R1.5 mil­lion of which was paid to con­sul­tants;

R8 mil­lion to a con­sult­ing com­pany in Mahikeng for their work on projects val­ued at R12 mil­lion – al­most 75% of the pro­ject value;

R4.5 mil­lion to builders and con­sul­tants for a 14- toi­let block at Mok­golokwe Se­nior Sec­ondary School in Batl­haros – which has ex­actly the same de­sign as the one at Dit­shipeng Pri­mary;

R4.8 mil­lion paid over to con­trac­tors and con­sul­tants for five class­rooms at Omang Pri­mary in Dithakong, out­side Ku­ru­man, which trans­lates to al­most R1 mil­lion each when the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment thresh­old is a max­i­mum of R350 000 per class­room;

R6.1 mil­lion to con­sul­tants and con­trac­tors to build an ad­min­is­tra­tion block at Phakane Sec­ondary School in Moth­ibis­tad.

Ex­perts told City Press that gov­ern­ment has a limit of R2 mil­lion on the block, which con­sists of four of­fices, a staff room, small kitchen, sta­tion­ary store, two store rooms, print­ing and sick rooms, a safe and toi­lets; and

R7 mil­lion for the same ad­min­is­tra­tion block at Pulelo Pri­mary School.

Lit­tle value for money

A con­trac­tor build­ing schools for the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion in North West, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said a toi­let block with 14 cu­bi­cles should not cost more than R1 mil­lion. The rate for toi­lets is about R66 000 per unit, he said. And a sin­gle class­room should not cost more than R350 000.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in North­ern Cape’s pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said there was no way five class­rooms should cost al­most R5 mil­lion. “Of course, ter­rain and to­pog­ra­phy dif­fer, but I know that the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion pays a max­i­mum of R300 000 per class.”

“They don’t pay more than R2 mil­lion for a large ablu­tion block,” she said, adding that an ad­min­is­tra­tion block would hardly go be­yond R3 mil­lion.

The con­sul­tants, she said, were not jus­ti­fied in charg­ing fees al­most half the to­tal value of the con­tracts.

“They, the In­de­pen­dent De­vel­op­ment Trust [IDT] and of­fi­cials are work­ing to­gether to screw the gov­ern­ment. We give them stan­dard­ised de­signs for all build­ings. They don’t have to de­sign any­thing. So why are they charg­ing us this much?” she asked. “The in­fra­struc­ture unit in the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion in the North­ern Cape is like a den for swindlers.”

A for­mer se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion said the Pres­i­den­tial In­fra­struc­ture Co­or­di­nat­ing Com­mis­sion had been forced to mon­i­tor con­struc­tion prices.

“They have com­pared prices in the pri­vate and public sec­tor and they found that in re­la­tion to schools, some com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially in Gaut­eng, were charg­ing up­wards of R1 mil­lion for a sin­gle class. For that amount of money, you can build a de­cent house. There is mas­sive cor­rup­tion. Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies charge way above in­dus­try norms,” he said.

Another for­mer se­nior of­fi­cial at the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion in the Eastern Cape said con­sult­ing com­pa­nies work­ing for the depart­ment should charge even less than the stip­u­lated 18% be­cause the depart­ment pro­vided them with ready-made de­signs.

“The depart­ment has de­signed its own ablu­tion blocks, ad­min­is­tra­tion blocks, com­puter halls, li­braries and lab­o­ra­to­ries. We give con­sult­ing com­pa­nies these stan­dard de­signs, and they shouldn’t charge like they have to de­sign from scratch. All the de­signs also have stan­dard fit­tings and fin­ishes,” he said.

What we found

When City Press ar­rived at Dit­shipeng this week, the toi­let block was not work­ing. Pupils were forced to uri­nate out­side in the veld or us­ing old, stink­ing and dan­ger­ous pit la­trines.

A teacher who spoke to City Press on con­di­tion of anonymity said the R4.7 mil­lion toi­let block, built last year, had never been used.

“I must say that there was poor work­man­ship; you will see when you go in­side. The wa­ter just goes through but toi­lets doesn’t flush. It seems like there is not enough pres­sure. We have de­cided not to use them un­til they are fixed. Not all toi­lets flush, uri­nals have prob­lems, and no wa­ter is com­ing into the basins.”

The school has com­plained to the depart­ment, but they have not been fixed.

What the depart­ment says

North­ern Cape ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Syd­ney Stander said the depart­ment ap­proved pay­ments based on doc­u­men­ta­tion it re­ceived from the IDT.

He said the depart­ment had raised con­cerns about in­flated con­sul­tants’ fees two years ago.

“We also raised this is­sue with IDT. A meet­ing was held with all con­sul­tants to dis­cuss these fees. All con­sul­tants claimed that their fees were within their re­spec­tive gazetted rates for their re­spec­tive pro­fes­sions. The claims ac­cord­ing to the con­sul­tants were based on the en­tire pro­ject scope,” he said.

Stander said the depart­ment asked the IDT to scru­ti­nise one of the con­sul­tant’s fees, and the agency re­ported that it was sat­is­fied with the con­sul­tant’s charges. Although the depart­ment was ex­pect­ing a re­port on the mat­ter, one had not been forth­com­ing.

The IDT did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

A WHOLE LOAD OF NOTH­ING A new block of toi­lets with 14 cu­bi­cles is

un­us­able be­cause of

prob­lems with wa­ter pres­sure and

leaky pipes

PHOTOS: LEON SADIKI

OF­FEN­SIVE Pupils play out­side dur­ing

break at Dit­shipeng Pri­mary. The school has a new block of toi­lets, but

pupils con­tinue to

use di­lap­i­dated pit

toi­lets

DIS­GUST­ING A brand new block of toi­lets, with 14 cu­bi­cles, is com­pletely un­us­able

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