Grens school move delayed over payments
The realisation of a much-anticipated inner-city high school is being delayed by the education department as it has failed to honour payments owed to a building contractor.
According to Dewing Construction, the department owes them just over R11m for the construction of a new primary school on the premises of East London’s Grens Hoërskool.
Grens Laerskool, currently based in Arcadia, is to move into the new school building to make way for the Steve Biko High School.
According to the principal of Grens Laerskool, Jan Brand, the move was supposed to have happened before the end of 2019, to ensure the inner-city high school starts operating next year.
However, that seems unlikely to happen, as Dewing Construction are now on a go-slow due to the non-payment.
In a letter dated September 28, addressed to an East London architecture company, Dewing Construction contract manager, Russell Maclachlan, made it clear that no work will be done without payment.
“Dewing Construction cannot risk business due to the lack of commitment from our mutual client,” stated the letter.
“We therefore will have minimal staff on site from October 1. We have stopped all material orders,” stated Maclachlan.
According to an email sent to the department of education by the building contractor’s quantity surveyor, Allie Choonara, the department owed them just over R11m for payments not made between August and October.
Choonara also stated that payments on the project were continuously late since the project started in January 2017.
The Daily Dispatch visited the school situated on the premises of Grens Hoërskool in Baysville.
Construction of the grades 1 to 6 classroom blocks as well as the admin block have been completed. Construction on the school hall and Grade 7 classrooms is incomplete, while construction of the Grade R block has yet to commence.
Brand said his main concern was that pupils from inner-city primary schools that have no feeder high schools will once again find themselves scrambling to get placement.
“There are primary schools, such as President, College Street and Southernwood Primary that do not have feeder high schools. We are ready to move to make way for them but it seems like the department does not see the urgency,” said Brand.
The department’s spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima said they were aware of the “incident” and claimed to have met with Dewing and other building contractors who have not been paid by the department.
“We have made a commitment to pay. We have the money, we will settle the outstanding debts with the help from treasury,” said Mtima.
Asked when the payments would be made and why were there delays, Mtima said he was unable to say when payments would be made and said the delays were due to internal process.
He said he could not share the details of the internal processes that caused the delay.
ON THE GO: Headmaster Jan Brand stands in front of the new Grens Laerskool in Baysville that is being constructed.