Housing tender letter questioned

By Drum Digital
29 November 2013

Questions have arisen over a letter used by the builders of the collapsed Tongaat mall praising their work to obtain a low-cost housing tender from the eThekwini metro municipality.

This emerged following an announcement earlier this week by the National Home Builders' Registration Council (NHBRC) that it would investigate all projects currently under construction by Woodglaze Trading (Pty) Ltd and Gralio Precast (Pty) Ltd.

Gralio was the company building the Tongaat mall which collapsed on November 19, killing two people and injuring 29 others.

Following that accident questions arose over the quality of Gralio's workmanship. The municipality was subsequently criticised over the fact that it had awarded a tender to Gralio to complete a portion of the Cornubia low-cost housing development in Mount Edgecombe.

Ethekwini municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole said he had tried to prevent Gralio from being awarded the tender in 2011.

Sithole said: "The city manager rejected the award and Gralio appealed the decision to the municipality's appeals authority, which overturned the city manager's decision upon the emergence of new evidence, including a letter from the NHBRC praising the quality of Gralio's work. This was contrary to an earlier NHBRC report which had criticised Gralio's work and formed part of the Manase report findings."

It is this second letter that is being questioned. In fact, the NHBRC have had to approach the eThekwini municipality for a copy of this letter.

On Friday NHBRC spokeswoman Molebogeng Taunyane said: "We have requested the [eThekwini] municipality to furnish us with a copy of that letter and we are still waiting for it."

Comment could not immediately be obtained from the municipality.

All companies that build housing are required by law to register with the NHBRC.

The quality of Gralio's workmanship on a housing project in Durban's Phoenix area was also raised in the Manase report -- a controversial forensic audit report into corruption at the municipality.

In another project, known as the Burbreeze Housing Project, Gralio was paid R2.2 million a month by the municipality before the tender was awarded to another company.

According to the Manase report that company, Palm Civils, later transferred the project to Gralio.

According to the report at another Gralio development, known as Hammonds farm outside Verulam, costs had soared from R68m to R351m with 22 units built having to be demolished because of poor workmanship.

The Mercury newspaper last year quoted Durban businessman Jay Singh as saying: "It was the engineer's fault those houses had to be demolished. It wasn't our fault."

Singh's ex-wife Shireen Annamalay is listed as the owner of Gralio and Woodglaze.

His son Ravi Jagadasan is the director of Rectangle Property Investments, the company for which Gralio was constructing the mall.

According to a report in the Witness newspaper last week Jay Singh and his family trust were directors of Rectangle until earlier this year.

Taunyane said it was expected that the NHBRC would complete its investigation before the end of next week.

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