Litany of woes

Theft, van­dal­ism and abuse of mu­nic­i­pal re­sources

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - JON HOUZET

Those build­ings have been van­dalised and any­thing of value was taken. There was no se­cu­rity

LACK of se­cu­rity and over­sight of Nd­lambe Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s in­fras­truc­tural as­sets has led to van­dal­ism, theft and abuse of mu­nic­i­pal re­sources.

Among the prob­lems high­lighted by a mu­nic­i­pal in­sider is the van­dal­ism at a pro­ject at the Port Al­fred land­fill site that was meant to house a com­post­ing fa­cil­ity and nurs­ery, miss­ing fenc­ing at the Port Al­fred sewage plant where a se­cu­rity guard was mur­dered three months ago, ram­pant theft at the mu­nic­i­pal works yard in Port Al­fred and lack of track­ing on mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cles since a con­tract ended last year.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ac­knowl­edged the prob­lems, though it has de­clined to go into de­tail in re­sponses to TotT’s ques­tions.

Our source, who asked for anonymity as he is a mu­nic­i­pal em­ployee, said he had been dis­mayed by the lack of con­trols which had re­sulted in the de­struc­tion and loss of prop­erty and even in the death of a se­cu­rity guard.

TotT has pre­vi­ously re­ported on the lack of ad­e­quate se­cu­rity at the R30-mil­lion sewage plant, which was dys­func­tional for a year after elec­tri­cal boxes were van­dalised and cop­per ca­ble stolen.

The sewage plant has been tar­geted by cop­per ca­ble thieves nu­mer­ous times over the years, and there were even re­ports of shots be­ing fired at the fa­cil­ity in pre­vi­ous Mul­tiSe­cu­rity in­ci­dent re­ports.

Mat­ters came to a head on July 5 when armed rob­bers stormed the guard­house at the plant and shot and killed one of the se­cu­rity guards be­fore tak­ing his cell­phone, a ra­dio and panic but­ton, and the cell­phone of the mur­dered guard’s col­league. TotT has re­ported on this in­ci­dent, which was con­firmed by the po­lice.

“Fenc­ing is miss­ing and the guard­house it­self has no elec­tric­ity. How can they be ex­pected to guard and se­cure the fa­cil­ity un­der such cir­cum­stances?” our source said. As for the land­fill site, he said a grant worth “mil­lions” had been given to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for a com­post­ing fa­cil­ity and nurs­ery at the site, in line with national re­cy­cling ob­jec­tives.

“Those build­ings have been van­dalised and any­thing of value was taken. There was no se­cu­rity,” our source said.

Se­cu­rity is also a prob­lem at the mu­nic­i­pal works yard in Port Al­fred, where theft is ram­pant, ac­cord­ing to TotT’s source.

TotT has pre­vi­ously re­ported on the theft of fuel at the works yard, as re­ported in the coun­cil agen­das. Se­cu­rity cam­eras were van­dalised to pre­vent footage be­ing recorded of the in­ci­dents.

“It’s not only fuel that is be­ing stolen. Tyres, bat­ter­ies and tools have also been stolen – and al­though there are guards at the front en­trance, there is a big opening at the back of the works yard that al­lows thieves easy ac­cess to the fa­cil­ity,” our source con­tin­ued.

He said he was also stunned when he dis­cov­ered that none of the mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cles have track­ing on them since a con­tract ex­pired last year.

“Track­ing is a man­age­ment tool which helps curb unau­tho­rised use of ve­hi­cles, so there is no ac­count­ing for abuse of mu­nic­i­pal re­sources,” he said.

In re­sponse to TotT’s queries on the is­sues, mu­nic­i­pal spokesman Ce­cil Mbolekwa said: “As a mu­nic­i­pal­ity we will be ad­ver­tis­ing a ten­der for se­cu­rity ser­vices for all mu­nic­i­pal build­ings/as­sets. We be­lieve that this will min­imise losses. When the ten­der is awarded, it will be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of bid­ders to en­sure that the guards are in pos­ses­sion of the nec­es­sary train­ing, knowl­edge and equip­ment.”

He did how­ever add that there al­ready was an ap­pointed se­cu­rity firm at the land­fill site, from 6pm to 6am daily, as well as full days on week­ends and pub­lic hol­i­days.

Mbolekwa at­trib­uted the dam­age to the com­post­ing fa­cil­ity to high winds blow­ing off the roof.

But in an­other set­back to re­cy­cling projects at the dump, the plas­tic re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity was burnt down over the week­end due to un­con­trolled fires at the dump.

As for the lack of a track­ing sys­tem on mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cles, Mbolekwa said: “A no­tice for ten­ders of track­ing sys­tems was ad­ver­tised in the Daily Dis­patch as well as mu­nic­i­pal no­tice­boards and web­site (No­tice num­ber 132/2017). The usual bid process will be fol­lowed in terms of the Mu­nic­i­pal Sup­ply Chain po­lices.”

Asked for com­ment, DA cau­cus leader and Ward 10 coun­cil­lor Ray Schenk said all four is­sues had been dis­cussed in coun­cil over a pe­riod of time.

“The DA is gravely con­cerned that the pro­ject for com­post­ing and the in­dige­nous nurs­ery never took off and that the struc­tures have been van­dalised and de­stroyed by high winds,” Schenk said.

“This is one more case of good money wasted be­cause of poor man­age­ment of the pro­ject. This wasted money could have been bet­ter spent on up­grad­ing roads in Ne­mato. There is no ex­cuse for this pro­ject to have failed dis­mally.

“We do not rec­om­mend that this pro­ject be res­ur­rected again as it will once more end in fail­ure. The fact that high winds dam­aged the roof struc­ture, points us to poor de­sign and work­man­ship.”

He said the is­sue of se­cu­rity at the sewage works and other mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture sites was more com­plex.

“The DA agrees that greater care should be taken in se­cur­ing our in­fra­struc­ture. How­ever, given the cost of se­cu­rity and the lim­ited bud­get it is a dif­fi­cult task. At the same time we can­not af­ford that these sites be­come tar­gets for thieves and rob­bers and the di­rec­torates will have to come up with plans to se­cure all in­fra­struc­ture.

“It is not only the sewer works in Port Al­fred that is at risk. Have a look at the East Beach ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties and all other in­fra­struc­ture sites through­out Nd­lambe that are tar­geted by thieves and van­dals.”

As for the mu­nic­i­pal works yard, he said the DA had for years been call­ing for an up­grade of the fa­cil­ity and the “cur­tail­ing of shrink­age”, be it fuel or parts.

“The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has moved slowly on this and should pri­ori­tise it as a mat­ter of ur­gency. Stricter con­trol mech­a­nisms are re­quired in or­der to stop the theft of as­sets,” Schenk said.

“It was a poor de­ci­sion of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity not to have con­tin­ued with a sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cles. There is no doubt that this has left the con­trol of mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cles open to abuse. As Ce­cil has in­di­cated, a ten­der has gone out for a bid process which will take care of that is­sue.

“As con­cern­ing as these is­sues are, the over­ar­ch­ing fac­tor is a lim­ited bud­get. Hav­ing said that, of­fi­cials should also have im­ple­mented stricter con­trol mech­a­nisms in or­der to re­duce the risks.”

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