R22 m. spent on Cubans

2016-04-06 06:00
CUBAN civil engineer Alberto Fidel Alonso captured on them being welcomed by the Free State ANC leadership in May last year in Bloemfontein. The Free State government estimated that R77 million had been spent to pay the 40 Cuban engineers.  Photo: Emile Hendricks

CUBAN civil engineer Alberto Fidel Alonso captured on them being welcomed by the Free State ANC leadership in May last year in Bloemfontein. The Free State government estimated that R77 million had been spent to pay the 40 Cuban engineers. Photo: Emile Hendricks

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THE Free State provincial government has to date spent more than R22 million on employing 33 Cuban engineers.

This hard-earned tax payers’ money has been spent since May 2015, when the Cubans were employed by the provincial government.

The total wage bill for the 33 engineers placed in the various municipalities totals just over R17,2 million. In addition, the accommodation bill for them at various guesthouses in the province totals R4,8 million.

These figures were revealed in response to written questions the DA submitted to Olly Mlamleli, the MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta). The DA’s member of the Free State legislature, Roy Jankielsohn said the Cuban professionals had been left without any work to do, as their appointments to municipalities were yet to be finalised.

Although the spokesperson of the department, Senne Bogatsu, confirmed the costs, she rubbished claims that the Cuban engineers had not yet started working since their arrival in the country.

Bogatsu said they had been employed on deputy director level 11 salary packages in government. She said some of the core functions of the Cuban engineers were technical inspections of water and sewerage projects and incomplete projects, as well as housing inspections. “On the whole, it must be noted that in any given situation where new work is started, there is bound to be an adjustment period,” Bogatsu said. “The Cuban engineers are not immune to the impact of relocation. However, we can confidently state that they are adjusting well in a context where language and culture issues are different from theirs,” she added.

The Kemedi Travel Agency was contracted to arrange accommodation for the Cubans by Cogta. The Bloemfontein-based company is owned by Kemedi Matlala, according to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.

The South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) Northern Cape and Free State regional secretary, Thabiso ­Mqobongo, confirmed that the council was investigating the Free State provincial government for unfair labour practises regarding the Cubans.

Mqobongo said the matter had been referred to the council by the national minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, in January.

He said the council was engaging with the municipalities on the matter and would submit a report after findings had been finalised.

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