Offices squeeze queried

2012-06-22 00:00

WHILE government departments battle for office space in Pietermaritzburg, the 14-storey Trizon Towers building stands largely empty as its controversial lease is investigated.

The deal, signed in 2006 by the Health Department, committed the provincial government to pay more than R240 million in rent for 10 years. The department has since tried to cancel the deal, but found it could not do so without incurring substantial costs.

The KZN Legislature’s finance committee learnt yesterday that Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo had ordered the investigation.

The issue of office space and questionable rental agreements came up when the Public Works Department appeared before the finance committee during its close-out hearings.

Public Works MEC Ravi Pillay was asked about Trizon Towers and why the Sports and Recreation Department had advertised for office space three times without success.

Pillay acknowledged the shortage of office space in the capital and said the provincial government was looking at various options.

He said office space suitable for the Sports and Recreation Department had finally been found.

The Trizon Towers lease saga was first raised over two years ago by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which said the office space was never needed in the first place and that the R2,5 million monthly rental was one of the most costly contracts in the city.

The lease agreement was allegedly signed by former KZN health director-general Dr Busi Nyembezi, who is one of the accused in the “Amigos” trial currently before the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

The case involves a multimillion-rand tender for water purification units.

Meanwhile, provincial lawmakers took the opportunity to vent their anger after being told they would have to wait eight months for their parking area next to the Tatham Art Gallery to be revamped.

“It is not as if a multi-storey parking lot is being erected; the place is just being tarred,” said MPL Johann Krog.

Pillay undertook to probe the time frame required for the project’s completion.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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