Councillors want underperforming contractors to face penalties or legal action for delaying Msunduzi’s integrated public transport network (IRPTN).
They were reacting to a progress report on the IRPTN, which was presented by the project’s acting head, Lindelwa Mngenela, before the finance committee on Thursday.
Mngenela said the project is behind schedule due to underperforming contractors, delays in procurement and housing relocation issues.
Twenty-three buildings were planned to be built in Ward 23, where the families in the informal settlements on the road reserve in Ward 19, were scheduled to be relocated.
“The idea of monetary compensation was not supported because it is not a permanent solution as these people can take the money and invade somewhere else,” said Mngenela.
The multi-billion rand project was allocated R208 million by National Treasury for the 2017/18 financial year, which ends in June, but Mngenela said only R50 million has been spent so far.
“A plan to extend construction to Edendale Mall ... was investigated. This was costed and it amounted to R179 million. It was deemed too expensive and it was not possible to implement it within six months.”
Mngenela said they will underspend by at least R70 million this financial year. She said the money should be surrendered to Treasury, so it can be given to municipalities that can use it, instead of waiting until June — the end of the financial year.
“Returning the money early will be an advantage. If we spend all our allocation early next year, we can go back to Treasury and the Department of Transport and ask for more and they can take from the cities that would have not spent all their allocations, and give it to us,” said Mngenela.
One of the contractors that the municipality blames for delaying the project is Kulu Civils, whose contract was terminated last year, said Mngenela.
Kulu was awarded a two-year road contract worth R70 million.
Mngenela said only 20% of the work was done, and the appointment of a new contractor will be finalised soon.
The councillors expressed dissatisfaction with the R11 million that was paid to Kulu.
ANC councillor Mehmood-UL-Hassan Oumar said he did not understand why Kulu was paid after there were reports of it not performing well.
Another ANC councillor, Thamsanqa Sithole, said there should be legal ramifications for underperformance.
The ANC’s Sandile Dlamini requested Mngenela to compile a report outlining who was paid with the R496,6 million spent on the project since its inception in 2010.
DA councillor Ross Strachan said Mngenela’s presentation gave a picture of poor financial management of the project.
“Currently there is no one from finance who is with the IRPTN, but there was a decision taken for IRPTN to appoint someone with finance management skills. Currently we have someone who will assist IRPTN should the need arise,” said chief finance officer Neli Ngcobo.
She said the process to appoint someone with a finance and transport background was under way.
Kulu Civils founder Musa Mazubane said the delays were caused by Msunduzi’s failure to obtain permits from the Department of Water and Sanitation and Transnet before the contractor arrived on site.
He said they could not interfere with streams, bridges and railway tracks, without proper authorisation.
“We needed those permits. We raised this with the municipality, but I guess right now they are looking for someone to blame for the delays.
Mazubane added: “We are ready to defend ourselves if they decide to institute legal action against us.”