District vows to learn from debacle

2008-03-17 00:00

The uMgungundlovu District Municipality was unable to live up to the task of upgrading the Harry Gwala Stadium to be used as a training stadium for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and has taken the failure as a learning experience.

This is after the district signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Msunduzi Municipality in August 2007, undertaking to work jointly to upgrade the stadium. The district was to implement the upgrading, while Msunduzi, as the owner, would assume responsibility for maintenance and operation.

To date, only half of the sports field has been upgraded.

In order to meet the 2009 deadline for the completion of refurbishments, the KZN Local Government Department has taken over from the district municipality.

Five municipalities — Ugu, Amajuba, uThungulu, eThekwini and uMgungundlovu — were awarded funding for the construction and upgrading of sports facilities.

uMgungundlovu was supposed to get R50 million in phases over three financial years. In order to get the next tranche of funding, the district was required to submit a business plan outlining what the money was to be used for. The district failed to submit this plan on time by last June.

uMgungundlovu Deputy Mayor Aubrey Lukhele said the district tried to fast track the refurbishment of the stadium, but faced financial and management problems.

He said the stadium upgrade was part of the problems that led to the district being issued with a recovery plan by the provincial treasury.

"A tender was advertised for the first phase of refurbishment and was due to be awarded at the end of March, but due to a variety of problems the process was halted," said Lukhele.

Sources said that there was no consultation with Msunduzi when the district issued a tender for the first phase, while others alleged that the initial R10 million was used to fund the municipality’s operational expenses.

Lukhele denied this, stating that to his knowledge, the money awarded to the district for the refurbishment has not been wasted and is still available.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo told The Witness she is disappointed with the lack of progress by uMgungundlovu. She said that after signing the MOU with the district last year, she heard nothing from district Mayor Bongi Sithole.

"She and the previous municipal manager, Monica Mngadi, attended the Local Organising Committee meetings and were supposed to report back to the task team set up between the two municipalities.

"The task team never actually met once, and we needed to know what was happening," Hlatshwayo said.

Hlatshwayo also questioned the decision by the province to channel the money through the district. "Who owned the stadium? We did. We had prepared for phase one of the upgrade already and were ready to pursue the next two phases.

"The work would have been done by now. It is very discouraging. We can’t be late for 2010 and now we need to fast track things."

She said she hopes province will now get an agreement in place between them and Msunduzi.

Lukhele said the municipality will take this incident as yet another learning curve and hoped that once a full financial recovery has been reached, such incidents will not be repeated.

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