Red tape creates huge leak

2011-03-22 00:00

THE Deeds Office building in Pietermaritz Street is in urgent need of repair, but bureaucratic delays have created a windfall for entrepreneurs, who are collecting the water gushing out of the building to sell it at the city’s taxi ranks.

The water pouring into the gutter is so abundant that 10 men have been filling up 25-litre containers from the stormwater drain and selling them at the taxi rank in Market Square.

A container costs R6, and a full taxi wash costs a further R50, says entrepreneur Sfiso Ncwane.

The Witness was taken into the Deeds Office and saw pools of water lying around the cooling towers, with water gushing into the stormwater drain connected to the street drains.

This waste of water is set to continue at least until August, according to a senior official.

Assistant Registrar of Deeds Jaques Zeelie deals with the building’s maintenance and explained that age and impurities found in the water have damaged the valves of the cooling towers, and this is causing an overflow.

The building is listed for a repair and renovate project (RRP) by the Public Works Department (PWD).

The department last conducted maintenance on the building in 2007 and now has no record of the building on its books.

Meanwhile the offices of the Registrar of Deeds and the Surveyor-General, who occupy the building, have to jerry-rig small repair jobs on a budget allocated by the Rural Development and Land Affairs Department.

“We’re doing a lot of the maintenance out of our own pocket,” said Zeelie.

The Public Works Department has only contributed in critical areas such as fire prevention and the lifts.

He said PWD was meant to start the RRP in 2008, before the building fell into disrepair.

A source inside the registrar’s office suggested that the RRP did not take place because the department had not correctly budgeted for it at the time.

The programme will run over 18 months, and is in the first phase — establishing what equipment needs to be replaced or repaired.

By August the contractors should be on site and ready to begin.

Zeelie said the water gushing from the cooling system that serves the Deeds Office will have to wait until then.

“We’ve done everything in our means to fix it,” he added.

The Witness contacted the PWD, but after numerous phone calls and e-mails during the week, at the time of going to print no response was forthcoming.

Thami Mchunu, a spokesperson for the PWD, would only say “an investigation is under way to establish if we own the building, as it does not show up on our records”.


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