R500m needed to save 2010

2009-11-14 13:43

THE North West government needs half a billion rands to finish the construction of roads which are critical to the province hosting a successful World Cup next year.

Premier Maureen Modiselle stripped the financial administration of the province’s department of public works, roads and transport this week because it was broke and could not afford to pay contractors.

Road construction projects around Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, where four first-round and two second-round World Cup matches will be played, are close to being stopped because contractors have not been paid.

Some contractors are heading to the courts to demand payment.

The budget for road infrastructure was depleted in July, only four months into the financial year.

Modiselle has given the provincial treasury two weeks to come up with a detailed report on how the roads budget was spent and where additional funding will come from to ensure the projects are completed before the whistle blows next year.

On Friday PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) handed roads MEC Mahlakeng Mahlakeng a damning audit report which probed tender ­irregularities wherein contracts were dished out to companies without procedures being ­followed.

In September the department suspended its chief director for roads, Eddie Thebe, pending PWC’s investigation into alleged irregularities in the awarding of contracts on an emergency basis.

City Press understands that the report, which Mahlakeng has kept close to his chest, has found instances of blatant disregard for rules and recommended that action be taken against a number of department officials.

Mahlakeng’s spokesperson, Matshobe Mfoele, said the MEC was expected to receive the report in the next few days and its findings and recommendations would determine the department’s way forward.

Speaking at an awards function on Friday, Mahlakeng reiterated that he would make the PWC report public. “Circumstances permitting, I should be in a position to also make an announcement about the report’s findings, recommendations and the way forward sooner than most expect. You have a right to know the contents and what we as government are doing about it.”

Government documents, in City Press’s possession, show that the provincial treasury raised concerns that the roads department had spent 68% of its budget as early as July.

In response, department head Nic van Staden said the department had started the financial year in April owing service providers R240?million that was not paid last year.

He also said that R70 million of his department’s funds was diverted to the department of education “because it was important to put provincial interests first”.

He also said the location of Royal Bafokeng Stadium was partly to blame, since it was in a township and outside the traditional central business district.

“This caused the department to undertake certain road projects in the area. The projects … are expected to cost R492 million and must be completed in the current financial year,” he added.

Ernest Moloi of Moseme Construction said that his sub-contractors were demanding payment from him.

“I have been carrying government all along because I do not want to embarrass our government ahead of 2010, but I can only do that to a certain point. My sub-contractors want their money and I do not have it,” said Moloi.

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