Nelson Mandela Bay buses worth R100m gather dust in ‘failed project’

2015-04-26 06:00

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Six years on and buses that were supposed to start the bus rapid transit system in Port Elizabeth are still gathering dust outside a fresh produce market.

The 60 buses were acquired by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in 2009 for R100 million as part of its integrated public transport system, but it has been plagued by problems and allegations of corruption.

As a result, the buses remain idle, parked outside the fresh produce market in Motherwell outside Port Elizabeth.

The buses were meant to diversify and improve the city’s transport system, but are now exposed to the elements all year round.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro’s integrated public transport system has been in disarray since its inception. The only time the buses were seen on the roads was during the 2010 soccer World Cup when the project was being piloted.

This week, members of the national council of provinces – on an oversight visit to the metro – were shocked to find that the buses were still not in use. They have now demanded that city bosses, the provincial department of transport and all project managers be summoned to Parliament to explain the mess.

Litho Suka, chairperson of the select committee on economic development and small business, led the parliamentary delegation that visited the site where the 60 unused buses are kept.

Suka said the matter of the unused buses was “a crisis” and needed an urgent solution.

“This crisis cannot continue unabated. The buses have not been used since 2010. Public transportation is central to accessing economic opportunities for the people. These buses cost the government a lot of money and should be connecting people to the economic centres,” he said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro spokesperson Roland Williams said the city was reviewing the project’s business plan.

“The business plan is under review, which must also be approved by the municipal council and the national department of transport before roll-out,” he said.

According to the municipality’s midterm budget and performance report, the metro overspent on its integrated public transport system by R216 million in the 2013/14 financial year. The report said the overexpenditure constituted irregular expenditure.

“The unauthorised expenditure on this project has resulted in a decline in the municipality’s cash position and has placed the funding status of the 2014/15 budget at risk,” read the report, which was presented to council in January this year.

Opposition parties said the corruption in the metro was responsible for delays in implementing the rapid bus transit system.

Mongameli Bobani, leader of the United Democratic Movement at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, said little could be done to resuscitate the project.

“There is a report that is gathering dust at the city manager’s office, implicating high-ranking people in the ruling party of being involved in corrupt activities in the project. Now this project will never take off and the buses and infrastructure will continue to deteriorate,” said Bobani.

Williams said the report was being dealt with by city manager Mpilo Mbambisa in accordance with the relevant legislation and procedure.

Kobus Gerber, chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayers’ Association was less optimistic, saying the metro should scrap the rapid bus transit project and cut its losses.

“I don’t see anything good coming out of it. We should just scrap it, sell those buses and take whatever we can out of them and move on.

“The project has failed,” he said.

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