Public Works told of ‘cheeky’ officials

2013-04-16 00:00

SERVICE providers doing business with the Public Works Department say they are being mistreated by government officials and are facing financial ruin because of not being paid on time.

The department met service providers at the Royal Hotel in Durban on Friday to try and improve working relationships between the two, after hundreds of small businesses complained about not being paid on time.

Businessman Mandla Zikhali, a service provider to the department, told Minister Thulas Nxesi how an official in his department had told him at one stage that he would only be assisted after the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

“He told me to my face that I will only get my money after the Afcon. I reported him to his senior, who told me that he was only joking. When I went back to him to get assistance, he refused to help me and asked me why I was such a tattle tale. Thereafter I was sent from pillar to post, waiting for endless committees to meet so that I could get my money and continue running my company,” he said.

More than 370 service providers took the government to task over late payments from tenders and questioned the attitude of the officials who are employed to serve the people.

A panel of about 20 senior officials, including the department’s director general, Mziwonke Dlabantu, looked dumbfounded as service providers lambasted the department and its staff for its alleged lack of professional courtesy and humility when dealing with problems.

The officials were labelled as so “conceited” and “full of themselves” that they were unapproachable.

On one occasion, an official allegedly told a service provider to say a prayer in order to receive a payment and future work from the department.

“Many employees that I have encountered there are evil,” he added.

Zandile Malinga said her company was owed money from a tender for the past six months.

The company had gone into debt and she was unable to pay her workers as a result of the late payments, plunging families deeper into poverty.

Malinga said working with the department had made her seem like a crook to her employees when she could not pay them on time.

Among other issues raised by the service providers was that bigger construction companies often appeared to be favoured over smaller players.

If the smaller companies are invited for a site inspection, the bigger players do not pitch but get the contract, while the smaller companies get nothing.

Nxesi said the department would visit all provinces to hear all the complaints about the department.

“We are going to process all the information and will try to pay back all the monies that are owed,” he said.

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