Almost complete Public Works Dept office block stands empty due to long dispute

2013-12-05 00:00

AN almost complete double-storey office block at the provincial Public Works Department in Prince Alfred Street has been standing empty as a result of a three-year dispute.

Costs are mounting as both the department and the builder fail to resolve their differences.

Ricky Authar, the project manager for building, a joint venture between Golden Acres and KMC Construction, said that based on price increases, the project is going to cost an extra R1 million from 2010 when it should have been completed.

Authar claimed they were about to finish the building when the department wanted more work to be done, but did not want to grant them more time to complete the extra work.

A dispute arose and the builders were locked out. They went to the high court and were granted a spoliation order in 2011, giving them access to the building.

The office block has been in the builders’ possession ever since and the dispute has simmered. Attempts to reach agreement as recently as last month have failed and it appears the affair may end up in court again.

Asked about the dispute, department spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said that because of the spoliation order the dispute was still subject to legal proceedings.

Mbulelo said the department did not intend to try the case in the media, “which would result in prejudice to both parties”.

However, he added that there have been numerous attempts to resolve the problem and that both parties met in September, October and November, with no resolution.

Each party accuses the other of acting in bad faith. Mbulelo said that the department proposed feasible solutions as a demonstration of its commitment to completing the project.

He said the department refused to be held to ransom and would continue with litigation.

The lawyer for the builders, Vishal Junkeeparsad, said his clients did not accept the settlement offered by the department because it was not economically viable.

Junkeeparsad accused Public Works of dragging its feet.

“The department has in the past expressed no urgency to have this matter resolved whilst the joint venture has via its representatives escalated their grievances continuously to the offices of the premier, the offices of the national minister of finance and the office of the president, to no avail.”

He said they were waiting to hear from the department.

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