The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) unhappiness with the Department of Public Works (DPW) is both longstanding and public knowledge. The department has now also come under fire for cancelled contracts that have left new prisons either not built or partially completed at a cost of millions.
The four correctional services facilities at Vanrhynsdorp (R355 million) and Ceres (R290 million), both in the Western Cape, as well as renovation of the Tzaneen, Limpopo, prison at a cost of R257 million and a R173 million upgrade for the C-Max prison in Pretoria have not happened because DPW appointed contractors have been liquidated.
This information was brought to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services last week and saw committee chairman Mathole Motshekga ask if any consideration was given to the contractors’ financial capacity before contracts were awarded. Acting Correctional Services Commissioner Zach Modise said it was difficult to respond because DPW adjudicated the contracts.
In a statement issued by the Portfolio Committee it noted work on the four prisons was “still incomplete years after the set completion dates”.
“This was due to defaulting contractors engaged by DPW. The contracts for the construction of two prisons and the renovation of two were awarded to companies that lacked the financial capacity to complete them and later ran into financial difficulties.”
The Vanrhynsdorp contract was set for completion in 2009, Ceres the following year with the Tzaneen contract awarded in 2011 to Vusela Construction, which was also the successful contractor on the C-Max upgrade. No completion dates for these two contracts was given to the Committee but Deputy Correctional Services Commissioner Phillip Ndlela said Vusela had been liquidated and a completion date “cannot be estimated”.
He told the Committee poor management of projects by DPW impacted on service delivery and that the budget for prisons maintenance should in future go directly to the Department of Justice and Correctional Services and not to DPW.
The longstanding unhappiness between DPW and the SANDF reached a head in the latter part of current SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke’s term as SA Army Chief.
In an effort to ensure at least some facility and infrastructure maintenance was controlled by the military, he re-established the Works Regiment. Among the first tasks it completed was the refurbishment of a mess in Thaba Tshwane and construction of a hospice at Lenasia, south of Johannesburg. The Regiment has now become a fully-fledged Army Formation and is taking on more facility maintenance work, in conjunction with DPW and some private sector contractors. It also provides training in a number of building, construction and engineering skills.
When she was Public Works Minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, famously noted the SANDF was not “one of our happy clients” and visits to military bases at Wonderboom, north of Pretoria, and Lenz and Diepkloof, south of Johannesburg, followed in 2010. This saw contractors appointed for repair and renovation work.
The Department of Defence Annual Report for 2013/14 notes only 22% of approved capital works projects were completed as scheduled during the financial year due to the “slow initiation of new planned capital projects by the National Department of Public Works (DPW)”. Similarly, only 67.8% of refurbishment programmes were completed due to poor performance by the DPW.
The slowness of the DPW can be seen from the Annual Report’s notes that it is still processing service providers’ invoices over a year after projects have been completed.