Municipality has no plans to recoup R124m wasted on sanitation project

2014-06-01 06:00

A municipality would rather spend millions more to fix a malfunctioning sanitation project than to recover the wasted R124.2 million.

The bucket toilet eradication project in the Govan Mbeki municipality in Mpumalanga went horribly wrong when companies were paid in full to build waterborne toilets, but the work was so poor that sewage has been flowing in the streets of the Embalenhle township near Secunda since the project was completed in 2006.

The toilets get blocked all the time, causing an overflow of excrement. Some toilets are not even connected to the water network; sewer pipelines are leaking and pump stations do not work.

Govan Mbeki councillors ignored a forensic audit report exposing the rot in the project and have now dilly-dallied for two years to table and implement recommendations of the Municipal Public Account Committee (MPAC) to recover the lost money and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Consultants and contractors claimed and pocketed R78.8 million, according to a SizweNtsaluba VSP forensic report, while R45.4 million could not be accounted for because no payment records and service providers’ appointment letters were found.

The consultants were also appointed without procurement procedures being followed.

Govan Mbeki municipal spokesperson Henry Masango said the council had budgeted R20.2 million in the current financial year to fix the problem but it was not going to recoup the money from officials, politicians and service providers.

“The forensic audit report recommended that the former executive mayor institute disciplinary proceedings against the then acting municipal manager and the head of the technical division for misconduct, but it was indicated that these people are no longer working for the municipality,” Masango said.

“However, the rectification of the sewer network has been a priority of the municipality to restore the human dignity of our communities and circumvent an outbreak of waterborne diseases,” he added.

The ANC in the Gert Sibande region appeared to be intervening when City Press first reported on the matter in 2012, but reshuffled council committees to remove MPAC members – who had crafted the report – as a cover-up.

A former MPAC member said a few officials who were implicated in the audit report got an opportunity to resign while the council had been dawdling.

“This report was last tabled in council in 2012, since then it has not been part of the agenda. The new MPAC members were instructed to suppress it,” he said.

“We had to remind council that recommendations of the forensic audit report should have been implemented to recover the money and fix the problem in the township,” he added.

Masango said the MPAC did not raise new matters that were different from the SizweNtsaluba findings, so it would be a “superfluous” exercise to consider it.

But the MPAC report pointed out that the council duplicated SizweNtsaluba’s work and paid another company R10.9 million to do what they referred to as a “due diligence” investigation.

That exercise intended to ascertain if the service providers had done their job.

The DA has laid criminal charges against municipal manager Mmela Mahlangu and technical services director Bongani Mtshali for allegedly contravening the National Water Act by failing to address the problem.

The party laid charges after proof that rivers were contaminated by the sewage spill.

Police are investigating.

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