Running up a bigger bill

2018-08-10 15:45
The almost-completed Pietermaritzburg athletics track, which has cost the city far more than was budgeted.

The almost-completed Pietermaritzburg athletics track, which has cost the city far more than was budgeted. (Ian Carbutt)

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The City has to fork out another R5,6 million for additional work that has to be done on the Msunduzi Athletics Track Stadium ahead of its grand opening later this month.

The project, which is part of the Harry Gwala Stadium precinct, includes an internationally-accredited track and a state-of-the-art gym.

Construction of the R90 million stadium, which started in 2012, has been dogged by several expensive delays. The projected completion date had been October 2015, but it has been moved several times since with August 25 being the latest target date.

Last week opposition parties expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposal to spend R2 million on international celebrity athletes who have been invited for the opening. Now, another report has come to council with a request for another R5,6 million for the athletics track.

According to the document, the funds will go towards a municipal football pitch adjacent to the track, seats, palisade fencing, athletics timing equipment, maintenance, additional work and repairing damage to the stadium and facilities.

The athletics stadium was initially expected to cost the City R45,9 million but that amount doubled due to the variations that ended up at 103,5% of the initial budget.

In last week’s report the council was also warned that the cost would continue to escalate, due to maintenance, if the stadium is not handed to the municipality soon.

“Also the cost for consultants which is still going to be submitted on a separate report will also keep on increasing,” it reads.

General manager for community services Boniwe Zulu said the R5,6 million requested from council is the last variation for the project to be completed.

ANC chief whip Truman Magubane said the organisation’s councillors supported the recommendations of the report for funding made available as per the variation.

However, the IFP and DA were opposed to the City having to spend more money on the project, saying that processes were not followed.

“As much as one does support the issue of upgrading our assets, we are not comfortable supporting the recommendations on the report. There is no legal comment which gives us an assurance that we are legally compliant in terms of doing this,” said DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola.

Another DA councillor, Glenn McArthur, said it did not make sense to him that the City is planning to open the track in two weeks’ time, yet the report indicates that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Did we not budget for the pitch and palisade fencing? How is it that we don’t have timing equipment? I can accept that this may be additional seats … To suggest that this was not part of the original plan signifies at best complete incompetence or financial creativity,” he said.

McArthur asked why the report had been brought to council when it was already fait accompli, saying the stadium was handed over to the municipality last year and the work on the pitch and the seats had already been completed.

He said the whole thing was suspicious and should be investigated before the requested funds are released.

IFP’s Thinasonke Ntombela said they could not support the recommendation for more funding because the variation for “additional work” was not specific on what needed to be done and on whose instruction.

Zulu said some invoices for the work done have not been paid because the officials were waiting for approval from council.


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