Contractor ‘lacks expertise’
While the Nelson Mandela Boulevard upgrade delays are being blamed on the rain, a damning report by consulting engineers Smec states that the contractor does not have the necessary resources, knowledge and capability to complete the project by the 30 June deadline.
In spite of the report, Mxolisi Nyakati of the DA maintains that the rain is the only challenge at the construction site in Thembalethu. But, FF Plus Councillor Gert van Niekerk believes the "can of worms" is just getting bigger and bigger. During the council meeting on Wednesday 28 March, Van Niekerk said his party is highly sceptical of this "controversial project" and has laid a charge at the office of the public protector. He said changing the road specifications is illegal as the tender was granted for a four-lane road, not just for upgrades of the current two-lane road.
ACDP Councillor Johan du Toit said his party's initial gut feeling about the contract is starting to resurface. He said the report paints a rather dark picture. Lack of expertise
The evaluation report of the acceleration proposal compiled by Smec, states that the contractor, Muravah Building &
Civils, is more than a month behind the approved programme and has been formally instructed on two occasions to speed things up. "On each occasion Muravah has not taken the necessary steps to accelerate progress and has not supplemented their resources," reads the report. "The contractor's senior staff are willing to perform the request for acceleration, but have insufficient knowledge and expertise to match the resources to the programme. The contractor has requested an advance payment and requested a cession agreement from the employer, which indicates that they also do not have sufficient financial resources to increase the production in accordance with the accelerated programme. It is the employer's agent's opinion that the contractor does not have the necessary resources, knowledge and capability to complete the project by the end of June 2018. This is based on the slow progress to date, lack of expertise and inadequate cash flow to timeously procure materials in accordance with the works programme."According to Smec's report there is a significant risk that Muravah will not achieve the milestones and cash flow forecast and this may result in an early termination of the contract due to poor performance. One year earlier
Du Toit said although one option in the report was given to roll the funds over to the next financial year, national treasury already indicated, after the previous rollover, that it wouldn't be repeated. The municipality thus stands the chance to lose the remaining funding.
This tender caused drama in the Civils Department a year ago, when former director Harold Basson and his deputy, Lindsay Mooiman, were both placed on special leave following a request for disciplinary action against them by George Mayor Melvin Naik. Naik accused Basson of undermining the mayoral committee and Council in respect of the Nelson Mandela Boulevard upgrade. The unhappiness related to the tender advertisement that was approved by Basson. The advertisement was retracted by the municipality, to ensure that the black empowerment requirements could be adjusted in terms of the new Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act - the triple-PFA law - that came in effect on 1 April, two days after the advertisement appeared. The wording and the BEE requirements seemed to be the main bone of contention, with Naik saying the two senior officials were trying to obstruct his empowerment goals.
Time running out
According to the council agenda, as the value of the tender exceeds R50-million, a company with an expertise level of at least a CIDB level 8 Civil Engineering (CE) grading must be awarded the tender. But, there may not be a second chance, as a once-off rollover was approved by national treasury, meaning that the full grant amount had to be spent by 30 June.
Muravha was appointed on 26 April 2017, but could only start work in September last year, since they had to apply for a construction permit which was only issued on 31 August. In a previous report to Council, it was stated that this company from Mbombela (previously Nelspruit) was the only possible choice due to the amendments to the PPPFA (Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act). Nyakati proposed that an information session for the full council be arranged as a matter of urgency, where councillors can express themselves on the matter and give feedback to the community. Nyakati said after a site visit two weeks ago, the contractor as well as the health and safety officer confirmed that the programme is on track. "There are three different teams working on the accelerated programme to make sure the project is finished by the end of June," he said.
Construction work early in February at the Nelson Mandela Boulevard in Thembalethu. Contrary to the original contract that stipulated that the road must be upgraded to four lanes, the two-lane road will now remain two lanes.
DA Councillor Mxolisi Nyakati said a site visit two weeks ago confirmed that the programme is on track.
FF Plus Councillor Gert van Niekerk said he has laid a charge at the office of the public protector.
ACDP Councillor Johan du Toit said if he looks at the report from Smec, it paints a rather dark picture.