City to quit meter deal

2010-05-26 00:00

THE city is about to get rid of one of its biggest financial burdens.

The Witness has been informed that the R240 million high-technology smart meter reading contract is about to be cancelled following a provincial and municipal probe.

The Witness understands that at an ANC caucus meeting on Friday those in attendance were told that plans are under way to cancel the controversial contract.

Controversy arose about the contract after it emerged that former municipal manager Rob Haswell turned a proposal call into a unbudgeted tender without informing the executive committee (Exco).

The committee subsequently learnt about it in The Witness.

Haswell, who gave the tender to a Port Elizabeth company, Unique Mbane, was hauled off to court when the lowest local bidder sued the municipality. The matter has yet to be finalised.

Despite the pending court case, Haswell told Exco they had to move with the project because the contract had been signed.

Unique Mbane was given an initial payment of R10 million before the work had started. It later received other payments and a pilot project was rolled out.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the contract is one of the issues that MEC Nomusa Dube is dealing with.

“Things that are happening [in Msunduzi] have the blessing of the MEC because she is central in ensuring that the municipality is back to a well-oiled machine geared towards effective service delivery,” he said.

Unique Mbane’s chief executive officer, Thiru Chetty, said he could not comment as the municipality has yet to notify him.

Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler said: “We are certainly busy with a review and will engage with Unique Mbane when we have all the relevant facts.”

According to legislation, Mettler cannot issue a statement about the matter until he has informed the company officially.

Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader Dolo Zondi said his party’s position is very clear.

“We never accepted this contract,” he said.

“The IFP fully supports the cancellation of the contract and we say hallelujah to that.”

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert said there were so many irregularities surrounding the awarding of the contract that he was not surprised about its impending cancellation.

“The manner in which it was awarded was absolutely shocking and we were led to believe that there was nothing we could do about it,” he added.

Meanwhile, workers sub-contracted to Unique Mbane are at their wits’ end because they have not been paid since January.

As it stands, those sub-contracted to Unique Mbane for electricity reconnections and disconnections are still not working after being told the municipality has withheld payment to Unique Mbane following the investigation.

The Witness quoted Chetty last month as saying Unique Mbane could pay the sub-contractors only once the municipality had paid them.

Payment is still awaited.

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