Public Protector appeals for merit-based awarding of construction contracts
Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela has called on government to ensure that construction contracts are awarded on the basis of merit, with a view to save state resources.
Speaking during a stakeholder consultative dialogue in Bloemfontien on Monday, the Public Protector said the country was facing a “huge battle” in relation to shoddily built RDP houses.
Her remarks followed allegations that the Free State provincial government was awarding tenders on the basis of political allegiance. Other complaints were that officials were being suspended for refusing to follow instructions that contracts be awarded unlawfully and procedurally.
Vowing to look into the claims, the Public Protector said she had heard of people who operated “briefcase” construction companies were often awarded tenders to undertake massive projects, which they did not have the capacity to execute.
Such people would then start looking for multiple sub-contractors to help implement the projects, thereby compromising accountability.
“We must give the job to the most suitably qualified persons [because] it is the right thing to do. It is in the interest of organs of state that are in charge of the human settlements programme to do so because it is costing billions to fix the shoddy work done by some of the fly-by-nights,” she said.
The Public Protector also pleaded with members of the public to advance evidence for the allegations they make, emphasising that the quality of her findings depended on the quality of evidence. “We can never make findings on the basis of a hunch or on the basis of a rumour,” she explained.
The Public Protector is in the Free State until Wednesday as part of her office’s National Stakeholder Consultative Dialogue, which kicked-off in Pretoria on 12 July.
The dialogue focuses on the need to work together to end maladministration and ensure responsive service delivery, with special focus on problems plaguing RDP housing and regulatory gaps regarding alleged illegal conversion of panel vans into taxis.
During the meeting held at the old provincial legislature, residents communicated a range of complaints, including a case of a deceased RDP housing grandmother whose immediate family -of six- was living in a one room shack and still waiting for the delivery of their house. Other complaints included the RDP side of Operation Hlasela and other infrastructure development aspects of the programme.
Community members also complained about questionable material, which looked like a “card box”, used for building an RDP show house in Botshabelo. They also raised concerns about long waiting lists, unmet promises, houses without toilets, incomplete housing projects and houses that were inaccessible to the disabled.
On the issue of illegally converted panel vans, a taxi operator alleged that it was government that allowed them to buy such vehicles, questioning why the state “allowed” the conversions in the first place and what government has done since realizing that there was a problem with such taxis.
Furthermore, there were complaints relating to disputes between taxi associations, with government allegedly not assisting in resolving the impasse; regulation of the operations of Lesotho taxis that do business in South Africa through the Ladybrand border; and a taxi rank in Bloemfontein that was allegedly costed R400 million but only built at R40 million.
There were also claims that certain elderly women were denied food parcels and blankets they were not members of the ruling party. It was also alleged state resources, including the police were being used to fight factional battles within the ruling party.
The Public Protector concluded the day with an inspection of some of the projects complained about, including a housing project in Botshabela and the taxi rank in Bloemfontein. She will interact with community members in Kroonstad on Wednesday.
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