Metro shut out of water project

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane is shown around the filtration stations at the Nooitgedacht plant by municipal water and sanitation director Barry Martin during a site inspection in May 2015 File picture: Eugene Coetzee / The Herald
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane is shown around the filtration stations at the Nooitgedacht plant by municipal water and sanitation director Barry Martin during a site inspection in May 2015
File picture: Eugene Coetzee / The Herald

Officials barred from involvement in tender to solve continuing crisis

Nelson Mandela Bay’s water woes are far from over, with restrictions expected to be in place for at least three more years due to added delays with the expansion of the Nooitgedacht water scheme.

Tenders for the final phase of the Nooitgedacht augmentation, which were meant to go out in December, only went out seven months later, throwing out the schedule of the entire project.

The tender process was handled by the Amatola Water Board.

Meanwhile, councillors are unhappy that Bay municipal officials are being shut out and now have to obtain permission from Amatola before they can visit the site.

It has also emerged that the final phase of the project (phase 3) is set to cost more than initially expected.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s department – which will take over the final phase – initially planned to spend R272-million, but this figure could change, according to her spokesman, Mlimandlela Ndamase.

Ndamase said any budget shortfall would be funded by the department.

The municipality is still busy with the second phase, which it hopes will be finished by July next year.

Once the third phase is complete, the Bay’s water supply will rise to 210Ml a day.

The completion of the project could end the city’s water woes, guaranteeing water security and boosting the chances of economic investments.

The metro said water restrictions would be in place until the expansion of the water scheme was completed – expected to be in October 2019.

Mokonyane took over the project in June last year, appointing the Amatola Water Board to implement the third phase on the depar tment’s behalf.

This, Ndamase said, was to fast-track the project and ensure efficient delivery.

However, metro councillors are concerned that municipal officials are not part of the final phase of the project.

Municipal officials from the infrastructure and engineering department also complained last week that they now needed to ask for permission even to visit the Nooitgedacht site where new pipes and filters would be installed.

Infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi told the councillors on Friday that officials were unsure what was happening with the project.

“We are not allowed to access the site as metro officials without applying for permission,” he said.

“We have [also] heard that Amatola has increased the costs to R400-million, but the minister gave the project R128-million.”

Shaidi said several attempts to arrange a meeting with the Amatola Water Board and the Department of Water and Sanitation had been unsuccessful.

But Ndamase said the municipality could not involve itself with the tender process.

“Amatola is busy with the tender evaluation. “We cannot involve Nelson Mandela Bay in the tender evaluation,” he said.

“They [the metro] are the customer. Amatola Water is the implementing agent appointed by the department.”

Ndamase said the municipality would receive all the information about the project once the tender process was finalised.

He said the money (R128-million) promised to the metro by Mokonyane in May last year would not be given to the municipality but to Amatola to finish the final phase.

Also, although it had initially been thought that the third phase would cost R272-million, it could cost more.

“The initial business plan costed the project at R272-million,” Ndamase said.

“This was, however, prior to the finalisation of the detailed designs upon which a tender would be issued to test the market and appoint a contractor.”

Acting metro city manager Johann Mettler said the tender put out by Amatola was in the “R300-million upwards range”.

Mettler said he was concerned that the municipality was not involved with the tender evaluation of the project to be able to ensure the technical requirements were adhered to.

“There must be complete integration be existing infrastructure,” he said.

“The risk of non-integration and non-involvement of the [municipality] in phase three is that the [municipality] will not be in a position to guarantee the quality of water it supplies to its customers.”

“We are urgently engaging with Amatola Water in this regard.”

Mettler said the water restrictions would be in place until completion of the final phase of Nooitgedacht.

Meanwhile, at Friday’s infrastructure and engineering committee meeting, chairwoman Annette Lovemore said it was a concern that the Nooitgedacht scheme, which belonged to the city, was being handled by another entity.

“It is a concern that we are going to sit with an asset to maintain and we have no idea how it was done,” Lovemore said.

But ANC councillor Andile Mfunda, who was the political head of the department until August 3, blasted municipal officials, saying: “I am surprised that officials have turned now and are saying these things.”

“We needed money and the minister intervened and gave us funding.”

“You are telling us to be careful, for what? That is mischievous. “When the minister was here, there were no debates. “Now you are changing your tune.”

DA councillor Masixole Zinto said: “Why are our officials not involved in the tender process? How sure are we about the performance of Amatola Water?”

“This is a bit scary. I am smelling a rat here.”

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