Contractor busy on site but no written confirmation yet of reinstated funds
Work has started again on the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme expansion project after it ground to a halt last month amid news of a draft reduction in funding by the national Department of Water and Sanitation.
The department has not yet supplied written confirmation that it has scrapped this draft reduction, despite a request from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality – prompting some nervousness from project insiders who said final budget security was needed.
But the municipality said yesterday it was satisfied that the phase-three project to expand the water treatment works near Addo would be completed on time in the third quarter of next year.
Municipal manager Johann Mettler said the letter received from the department last month had related to an anticipated budget cut.
“The letter we are now awaiting is a retraction of the previous letter.
“No budget has in fact been cut and the contractor is back on site,” Mettler said.
“The anticipated date of completion is September next year and we have no reason at this stage to doubt that it will be completed on time.”
The department agreed in 2015 to fund the phase-three expansion of Nooitgedacht, which already supplies 160 megalitres of water a day of the city’s daily consumption of 280ML.
The water is sourced from the Gariep Dam on the border of the Free State and the Eastern Cape, flowing 400km through canals and tunnels to Scheepersvlakte Dam and then through a pipe to Nooitgedacht.
Once completed, the expansion project will feed a further 70ML of water a day to the city, a key back-up volume to alleviate demand on the dwindling supplies in the drought-hit Kouga, Impofu, Churchill and Groendal dams.
Work on the project stopped on January 24 and five days later operations were still at a standstill.
The DA’s Leon Basson said at the time that the department’s commitment to a R390-million budget over three years for Nooitgedacht had received a draft cut amid outstanding invoices of R28-million, and the DA would be challenging the plan.
After a flurry of emergency inter-government meetings, Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip announced at the beginning of this month that senior department officials had given the municipality a verbal assurance that the budget for the crucial project would not be slashed.
The same day, infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi wrote to the department’s Eastern Cape chief director, Portia Makhanya, referring to her report in this regard at a high-level meeting between the two government tiers. Shaidi asked Makhanya to supply written confirmation of this budget allocation.
Asked why this written confirmation had not yet been supplied, and the reasons for the initial draft budget reduction and then the turn-about, department spokesman Sputnik Rantau did not answer these questions.
He confirmed, however, that the department had decided to stick to its original planned expenditure for Nooitgedacht.
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