CityPress - - News - HOPEWELL RADEBE hopewell.radebe@city­press.co.za

The City of Ekurhu­leni is build­ing what might well be the coun­try’s most ex­pen­sive 12 guardhouses in pub­lic li­braries and parks – cost­ing tax­pay­ers R320 800 each – to boost the bot­tom line of emerg­ing en­trepreneurs. A se­nior of­fi­cial at the metro, who asked not to be named, queried the amount be­ing spent on these guardhouses and said that some of his col­leagues warned the metro that the young en­trepreneurs were be­ing set up for fail­ure. “Who would want to hire such an ex­pen­sive builder?” he asked. Guardhouses are used by se­cu­rity guards for shel­ter. Metro spokesper­son Themba Gadebe said the ten­der was ad­ver­tised for the con­struc­tion of guardhouses at 12 dif­fer­ent li­braries, at a to­tal cost of R3 849 633.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Bid Ad­ju­di­ca­tion Com­mit­tee re­jected rec­om­men­da­tions to ap­point ser­vice providers, on the ba­sis that the prices were “un­rea­son­ably high and not mar­ket re­lated”. Con­se­quently, the con­tract was not awarded. Gadebe said the metro then de­cided to use its own Ex­panded Pub­lic Works Pro­gramme, known as Vuk’up­hile (Arise and live), to con­struct the guardhouses.

A quan­tity sur­veyor, ap­pointed to as­sist with the bill of quan­ti­ties, con­firmed that the job was al­lo­cated to 12 emerg­ing con­trac­tors from the metro’s pub­lic works pro­gramme “as part of the exit pro­gramme of com­plet­ing their three-year learn­er­ship train­ing”.

Gadebe said that each guard­house build­ing cost the metro R320 800, ex­clud­ing VAT. He added that the costs com­plied with the re­quire­ments of the de­part­ment of pub­lic works for Vuk’up­hile con­trac­tors.

“The build­ing cov­ers a to­tal of 38.25 square me­tres, in­clud­ing the canopy or roof. This amounts to R8 387 a square me­tre,” said Gadebe.

“This cost was tested in the open mar­ket through a pub­licly ad­ver­tised ten­der as well as the cost es­ti­mate of an in­de­pen­dent quan­tity sur­veyor.”

Asked why the metro agreed to pay so much for the struc­ture, which is al­most equal in size to a house built to re­con­struc­tion and devel­op­ment pro­gramme stan­dards – about 40 square me­tres, and con­sid­er­ably cheaper at R53 000 (in­clud­ing a builder’s profit) – Gadebe said this was to en­sure that the emerg­ing con­trac­tors “did not work at a loss but had to make a min­i­mum profit of 15%”.

Ac­cord­ing to Absa’s res­i­den­tial build­ing statistics for 2016, com­piled by Absa Home Loans prop­erty an­a­lyst Jac­ques du Toit, the av­er­age build­ing cost of new hous­ing units amounted to R6 185 a square me­tre in 2015 – which was 6.2% higher than the cost of R5 825 a square me­tre in 2014.

Although the in­crease in build­ing costs was down on the dou­ble-digit an­nual growth in 2013 and 2014, it re­mained above the av­er­age head­line con­sumer price in­fla­tion rate of 4.6% in 2015, wrote Du Toit.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s se­nior of­fi­cial told City Press: “Most of them [con­trac­tors] would then ex­pect the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to al­ways pro­vide con­tracts that ex­ploit mu­nic­i­pal re­sources to sus­tain the un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Coun­cil­lor Izak Berg, chair­per­son of the In­de­pen­dent Ratepay­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of SA, said the metro was giv­ing jobs to am­a­teurs who did not fol­low con­tract spec­i­fi­ca­tions and that the work was not up to stan­dard.

He said it was un­for­tu­nate that a devel­op­ment pro­gramme with good in­ten­tions was be­ing mis­used to bleed tax­pay­ers.

Berg added that the guard­house saga was sim­i­lar to the R69 000 se­cu­rity-re­lated ren­o­va­tions con­ducted on the house of Ekurhu­leni’s ex­ec­u­tive mayor, Mondli Gun­gubele, where prices were ex­ag­ger­ated and un­re­lated se­cu­rity fea­tures charged to the metro.

Doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence for­warded to City Press shows that the metro so­licited three quo­ta­tions from busi­nesses that be­longed to, or were par­tially owned by, the same con­trac­tor who fixed the mayor’s house.

Gadebe ac­knowl­edged to City Press that they “have dis­cov­ered that there were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in re­la­tion to the se­lec­tion process of the con­trac­tor” by the metro.

“These mat­ters are be­ing dealt with in­ter­nally, in­clud­ing through in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” he said.

Gadebe said that fol­low­ing a se­cu­rity risk as­sess­ment in the mayor’s res­i­dence, fea­tures re­quir­ing an up­grade were noted. This led to mi­nor re­pairs be­ing done to the guard­house, along with im­prove­ments to the ex­te­rior light­ing, the au­to­ma­tion of garage doors and im­prov­ing ac­cess to the res­i­dence. This work took place in Au­gust, said Gadebe. Berg coun­tered that up­grades such as the au­to­ma­tion of garage doors had noth­ing to do with se­cu­rity and should be paid for by the mayor.

“There is proof that fraud and cor­rup­tion took place by con­tra­ven­ing the sup­ply chain man­age­ment pol­icy. The same con­trac­tor has been do­ing this for years with other quo­ta­tions. Why was it not checked?” said Berg.

He said it was ratepay­ers’ money that was be­ing stolen, adding that he hoped the pub­lic would make sure that the mayor paid it back.

“If not, he should suf­fer in the up­com­ing lo­cal elec­tions,” said Berg.

Ekurhu­leni Mayor Mondli Gun­gubele

Izak Berg, chair of the ratepay­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion

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