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CityPress - - News - LUBABLO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

or five years, buses bought specif­i­cally for the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s in­te­grated bus rapid transit sys­tem have been stand­ing idle at a de­pot next to a fruit and veg­etable mar­ket in Mother­well, Eastern Cape.

But new ev­i­dence shows that the city paid more than R500 mil­lion be­tween July 2013 and July 2014 to nu­mer­ous con­trac­tors; in­clud­ing engi­neers, se­cu­rity com­pa­nies and at­tor­neys for an in­te­grated public trans­port sys­tem that is not go­ing any­where.

A damn­ing dossier com­piled by the city’s busi­ness fo­rum, the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and pres­sure group AfriFo­rum – af­ter in­for­ma­tion was leaked to them by whis­tle-blow­ers within the city – has re­vealed the ex­tent of what seems to be a mas­sive waste of money on what is es­sen­tially a stag­nant trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

The dossier, which is in the pos­ses­sion of City Press, con­tains what its com­pil­ers say is proof-of-pay­ment re­ceipts, names of com­pa­nies in­volved in the bus rapid transit pro­ject and how much they were paid, email ex­changes be­tween city of­fi­cials, and re­ports and re­quests for de­vi­a­tion from pro­cure­ment guide­lines by those in­volved in ex­e­cut­ing the pro­ject.

The buses were briefly on the road as part of a pi­lot pro­ject dur­ing the 2010 Soc­cer World Cup, but there has not been any progress since.

Now, fol­low­ing the emer­gence of the dossier, of­fi­cials who were in­volved in the pro­ject – in­clud­ing its head – are said to be in the fir­ing line.

Ad­vo­cate Mh­leli Tshamase, head of the pro­ject, re­signed abruptly on Wed­nes­day. City Press un­der­stands this was af­ter he re­ceived no­tice of his sus­pen­sion.

The city has con­firmed that Tshamase was about to be sus­pended in con­nec­tion with the pro­ject.

One of the fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties un­cov­ered by the dossier in­cludes a R92 mil­lion pay­ment to a se­cu­rity com­pany for a closed-cir­cuit sur­veil­lance sys­tem. But it was not clear how this se­cu­rity sys­tem was linked to the pro­ject.

The MD of the Port El­iz­a­beth-based com­pany said it had done se­cu­rity work for the city for the past 10 years. He said he wasn’t aware of how much they had been paid for work on the bus rapid transit sys­tem, but dis­puted it was R92 mil­lion.

“I would re­quire more time to speak to our ac­coun­tants to de­ter­mine the ex­act amount that has been paid to us by the metro, but it’s not R92 mil­lion – that I can as­sure you,” he said.

Another pay­ment con­tained in the dossier is for R28 mil­lion paid to a Port El­iz­a­beth-based law firm, which also op­er­ates in the se­cu­rity field – pre­sum­ably for le­gal fees re­lat­ing to the pro­ject, although it was not clear what ex­actly the law firm had done.

A to­tal of R188 mil­lion was paid to a num­ber of con­sult­ing com­pa­nies and R250 mil­lion was paid to var­i­ous en­ti­ties for civil en­gi­neer­ing and for the con­struc­tion of bus lanes.

Ac­cord­ing to the dossier, a com­pany that pro­vided the buses for the in­te­grated public trans­port sys­tem is said to have re­ceived an ad­di­tional R17 mil­lion to Bay­bus Re­fur­bish­ers. It is not clear what this as­pect of the pro­ject was about. Con­tacted for com­ment, the com­pany asked to be emailed ques­tions, but it had not re­sponded by the time of go­ing to press.

Kobus Ger­ber, chair of the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­fi­den­tial and not in the public do­main yet, and that its pur­pose was mainly for pros­e­cu­tion and to re­cover state money that he claimed had been “stolen” in the name of the pro­ject.

Ger­ber claimed that only a few in­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions had seen the re­port. These, he said, were Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance Min­is­ter, Pravin Gord­han; Derek Hanekom, pre­vi­ously head of ANC de­ploy­ees in the Eastern Cape; the Trea­sury; the Hawks; and Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela.

Gord­han’s of­fice con­firmed that he knew about the re­port. His spokesper­son, Tsakane Baloyi, said the lead­er­ship of the metro would soon be pre­sented with the re­sults of a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the bus pro­ject.

Ger­ber, who is also the deputy pres­i­dent of AfriFo­rum in Port El­iz­a­beth, said de­spite all these mil­lions paid to ser­vice providers, all that res­i­dents of the bay had to show for the pro­ject was 25 buses parked at a makeshift de­pot for more than five years, main streets that have been ru­ined dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase and an empty public purse.

“Cor­rup­tion is deep at the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Metro. Not a sin­gle depart­ment [here], isn’t tainted by cor­rup­tion in one form or another,” he said.

Nel­son Man­dela Metro spokesper­son Roland Wil­liams ac­knowl­edged that Tshamase had been served with a no­tice of sus­pen­sion re­lated to the pro­ject.

He re­ferred fur­ther queries to Tshamase, who could not be reached for com­ment.

Wil­liams said two other peo­ple had been served with sim­i­lar sus­pen­sion no­tices re­lated to the pro­ject, say­ing the city was still con­duct­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions. He said, how­ever, that he was not aware of the ex­is­tence of the dossier and would need to check with other city de­part­ments to see if they had re­ceived a copy.

PHOTO: THEODORE JEPHTA

WASTE In­te­grated public trans­port sys­tem buses stand un­used at a bus de­pot in Mother­well. The Nel­son Man­dela Metro has paid more than R500 mil­lion to con­trac­tors for the pro­ject

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