Councillors lambast ‘lazy city officials’

2013-10-31 00:00

COUNCILLORS have slammed eThekwini municipality officials as lazy after they were asked to approve the use of Section 36 to buy overalls for electricity unit employees.

This section allows the municipality to deviate from normal tender procedures as prescribed by the Supply Chain Management Act. The officials can appoint a service provider in cases where immediate action is necessary.

They expressed annoyance when city manager Sbu Sithole asked for the approval to buy arc-rated and flame-retardant overalls.

Exco members were annoyed that the proposal for the use of Section 36 came six months after an electricity unit worker was electrocuted. The incident happened in May at the high voltage Quarry sub-station. The city employee sustained third-degree burns to more than 60% of his body, although he was wearing overalls. He died in hospital.

The electricity unit’s policy requires that workers be issued two sets of overalls each in July. Sithole said overalls were not issued to workers this year due to an investigation into the overalls.

“The incident led us to launch an investigation because we had never experienced such things before. The investigation into the special materials [used to manufacture the overalls] was undertaken by specialist branches within the electricity unit, including safety, risk and quality, and technology services,” he said.

Sithole said the investigation had also included liaising with Eskom, City Power in Johannesburg and Cape Town municipality to determine the best arc-rated and flame-retardant clothing that could be used when working on an electricity network.

However, his explanation fell on deaf ears as councillors called for the city to advertise a tender to get the appropriate garments for the electricity department.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said he did not understand why the city had to use Section 36 to get overalls six months after the incident.

“This issue should have been addressed a long time ago,” he said.

ANC councillor Nondumiso Cele said it was annoying to see that officials were not doing their jobs after a person had died.

“We would be accused of abusing Section 36 because tenders were not advertised on time. All I see is a mentality of laziness in our officials,” she said.

Minority Front councillor Patrick Pillay said Exco members could not easily approve use of Section  36 while there was enough time to advertise.

“Yes, we must not lose another life, but it’s incorrect for the city to use Section 36,” he said.

Sithole said the Section 36 purchase of the overalls would be a once-off event because of the situation. “We would then put up a tender for these provisions. Failing to purchase these uniforms, we would be found to be contravening occupational health regulations.”

He said that as accounting officer, he could be fined R100 000 or jailed for two years for failing to provide workers with the correct equipment.

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