R6m already paid, still no bridge
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.
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