R6m al­ready paid, still no bridge

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

A neatly paved road wind­ing through Taung vil­lage near Vry­burg to­wards the river ends me­tres away from the banks on both sides, mak­ing it ob­vi­ous that a bridge is miss­ing.

Vil­lagers still have to walk to a dry river cross­ing to get to the other side. If it rains, the river cuts the vil­lage off from the near­est town.

A com­pany that has been paid al­most R6 mil­lion for a bridge project has only built 200m of paved road, say­ing the rest of the money has gone to­wards con­sul­tancy fees.

The paved road and the bridge were part of an ac­cess road project that would link Nhole and the Chief’s Court sec­tions of the vil­lage in the Dr Ruth Se­go­motsi Mom­pati District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in North West.

The ten­der was awarded ear­lier this year, with the first pay­ment of R1.1 mil­lion made in March and to­tal pay­ment of more than R5.8 mil­lion eight months later. The ac­tual work on the bridge is yet to start.

Farad Suf­fla of Bat­tle Shield Projects en­tered into a joint ven­ture with an­other com­pany, Seedi, in the bridge con­struc­tion.

He con­firmed they have only built about 200m of paved road, say­ing most of their in­voices cov­ered pay­ments for con­sul­tancy fees, in­clud­ing “spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants such as geotech­ni­cal en­gi­neers, soil anal­y­sis and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants”.

He said the ac­tual bridge would be con­structed from con­crete por­tal frames at a cost of R1.8 mil­lion and would in­clude some storm wa­ter chan­nels. The to­tal cost would be R10 mil­lion.

This means that Bat­tle Shield has al­ready claimed more than half of the to­tal project value with lit­tle to show for it.

Asked why the ac­tual bridge con­struc­tion had not yet started, Suf­fla said they were still sort­ing out com­pli­ance pa­pers. He said they were hop­ing to have the last doc­u­ments signed by next week, but even if that were done, they would only go back to the con­struc­tion site next year. The project was meant to be com­pleted this year.

An­other con­trac­tor, YMan Ven­tures, said it had long com­pleted its own project of about 2.5km of paved road wind­ing across the two vil­lages sep­a­rated by the river. That project alone has cost the mu­nic­i­pal­ity around R9 mil­lion.

“We have done our part and left a small stretch of the road that was to be cov­ered by the other com­pany that was awarded the bridge project,” said Paledi Seo­posen­gwe of YMan.

Mean­while, it also emerged that Bat­tle Shield Projects re­ceived pay­ments from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­spite its VAT reg­is­tra­tion still be­ing pend­ing.

City Press has seen sev­eral Absa proofs of pay­ment made by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, as well as in­voices from Bat­tle Shield Projects with at least one bear­ing notes that the com­pany’s “VAT num­ber was still pend­ing; hence, no VAT is be­ing charged”.

On ap­proval, notes were also made on pay­ment req­ui­si­tion memos to the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer not to in­clude VAT in pay­ments to Bat­tle Shield.

“We have in­stances where lo­cal com­pa­nies are be­ing dis­qual­i­fied from get­ting any con­tracts be­cause they don’t have VAT reg­is­tra­tion, yet we have a com­pany that is be­ing paid for no work done when they did not even have their tax is­sues in or­der,” said one busi­ness­man who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of los­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son Ricky Oliphant con­firmed that pay­ments made were for “en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment, bridge project de­sign and con­struc­tion ser­vices for road­works and storm wa­ter con­trol sys­tem ap­proach­ing and de­part­ing the bridge” and not yet for the bridge con­crete struc­ture of about R1.8 mil­lion.

He fur­ther said anony­mous peo­ple ap­proached the po­lice last month sus­pect­ing wrong­do­ing in the bridge project and they had started their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

PHOTO: POLOKO TAU

A BRIDGE TOO FAR The un­built bridge that would link Nhole and the Chief’s Court sec­tions of Taung vil­lage near Vry­burg in the Dr Ruth Se­go­motsi Mom­pati District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in North West

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