More than six months after Minister of Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu mandated Sedibeng Water to establish a call centre for the QwaQwa community to report water challenges, an investigation has found that more than R1-million was wasted. There is still no call centre.
The Maluti-A-Phofung municipality awarded Free State company Dots Design Agency a R1.3-million tender in February. The company was awarded the tender on the same day it had quoted, February 6.
A few days later, two other companies sent in quotations that were cheaper than the one from Dots Design Agency. Less than a month later, the company was paid.
Because of the rushed nature of the tender, there were complaints of irregularities and the municipal council began an investigation, which has found that the matter should be reported to the South African Police Service, the Hawks and the Special Investigative Unit.
This money was earmarked for water provision for people in Maluti-A-Phofung, in and around QwaQwa, where community members shut down the area when protesting for adequate water services. The community has been experiencing a water crisis since 2016. In October last year the taps ran dry and in January there were protests until Sisulu interviewed. The call centre was one of the interventions.
Back in May, the spokesperson for the municipality, Kedibone Sentle, said that Dots Design Agency was appointed through an emergency deviation and that no tender process was followed.
“It is envisaged that the call centre may end up handling all other service queries. This platform is aimed at giving consumers a line to interact with the municipality and receive feedback on their complaints within a reasonable time,” said Sentle.
However, the council report states that there was no deviation approved.
“After six months, the call centre is still not operational. The committee could not quantify any benefit to the municipality and the community. There are no telephone lines. The call-centre operators contracted … operate from the main office reception, while the small, shabby call-centre rooms are gathering dust.
“Some of the items listed on the quotation could not be verified; [for example] 60 safety signages. This expenditure was made in vain as the municipality derived no value from the money,” reads the report.
Dots Design Agency’s owner, Mosa Likobo, said his company did more work than just painting and the signage. The only outstanding item was the mounting of the outdoor signage to the centre, which was awaiting the call-centre number.
The report states that the former municipal manager Teboho Mopeloa acted outside his legal powers.
“His failure to report this transaction to the executive mayor and council is a clear and definite indication of arrogance, self-righteousness and staggering disdain.The acting MM [municipal manager] is identified as the person liable for the irregular, unauthorised and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he is liable for the identified noncompliance to the supply-chain-management processes.”
The council wants the former municipal manager to pay back the money.
Neither Sedibeng Water nor the municipality had responded to follow-up questions regarding their role in wasting R1.3-million. Meanwhile, people in QwaQwa still battle with water issues.