New deal for PE meter firm

2009-09-15 00:00

THE Port Elizabeth-based company that was given the R240-million, three-year tender to install automated meters in Pietermaritzburg has been given yet another contract by the city.

At the end of August, Unique Mbane, through subsidiary Reotic Metering Contractors, took over the meter reading contract from Steward Scott International (SSI).

Msunduzi Municipality’s head of procurement, Francis Grantham, confirmed that Unique Mbane will be paid separately for this contract over and above the R240 million for the automated system.

News of the change emerged last week when the 80 meter readers employed by SSI went to city hall to demand an explanation about their fate.

The meter readers said their contracts with SSI,which were due to end in December 2009, were suddenly terminated towards the end of August.

They were told a new company is taking over and will continue to operate from the premises in Boom Street previously used by SSI.

They were given new contracts to sign, but they complained that the contracts had no logos, no letterheads and no details of the company.

The meter readers tried to speak to councillors to take up their grievance. One of them said the councillors claimed they had heard from officials that the meter readers were not happy with SSI and that was why the contract had changed.

He added: “We told the councillors we had no problems with SSI. We had not complained to anyone.”

They were then referred to Grantham. They claim he told them they were not the municipality’s concern because they were employed by private companies.

Grantham allegedly told them to go back to work or else they would lose their jobs. The meter readers are unhappy that they earn R1,80 per meter and enjoy no benefits. They want to be employed by the municipality. They also worry about their fate once the automated meters are installed.

Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said councillors know little about the meter contracts. She said there was supposed to be a project management team headed by chief financial officer Roy Bridgemohan, who was to provide reports to the executive committee (Exco). Bridgemohan has been off sick and there has been no report.

Municipal manager Rob Haswell referred The Witness to Grantham, who said the workers were told in June that the contracts were to come to an end.

The workers insist that the first they heard of the takeover was in August.

Grantham said the contracts provided by Reotic Metering were draft contracts, which were provided for the workers’ perusal and subsequent discussion.

“It is based on the contract with SSI with a few changes indicated. Once finalised, the issue of logo and company details would be inserted on the document ready for signature,” he said.

Regarding the tenders, Grantham said SSI has been undertaking meter reading on behalf of council on a month-to-month contract. He said the original contract was to locate and uncover all meters in the city. This was later adjusted to add the meter reading component.

Grantham said the reason for handing over the contract to Unique Mbane was to get a sense of the scope of the terrain in preparation for their installation of automated meters.

He said the municipality does not have to advertise the tender.

Angus Ovendale of SSI referred queries to the municipality.

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