'We played open cards with Gift of the Givers' - Makana

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The Makana Municipality has responded to Gift of the Givers’ withdrawal from the drought-stricken region saying discussions were ongoing.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said on Thursday morning they were withdrawing over a dispute over R15m owed to them for drought-relief efforts.

The dispute surfaced on social media on Wednesday when the non-profit organisation's founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said there was a disagreement with the department of water and sanitation (DWS).

Sooliman said the DWS had declined to pay them for their efforts amid claims that only Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) companies could be paid for drought intervention.

However, DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the matter was between the municipality and the Gift of the Givers – and not them.

“We have given the [Makana] municipality R22m for drought relief – the funds have been transferred. It is not our mandate and we cannot dictate to them how they must use the money, this is their own supply chain management processes,” he said.

Makana Municipality spokesperson Anele Mjekula has, in turn, hit back.

“Their [Gift of the Givers] announcement was made in the midst of [ongoing] discussions and is, we believe, unfortunate in that the statement seems to be an attempt to influence those discussions and, further, is contrary to the positive spirit of engagement we’ve enjoyed with Gift of the Givers to date.”

Mjekula said that as a part of the Gift of the Givers’ interventions, they were drilling boreholes at key sites around the city as part of a long-term initiative.

“Gift of the Givers are quite correct in saying they did so on their own accord and no guarantees were given by Makana Municipality about reimbursement or funding.”

Mjekula said that at the time they were waiting for clarity from the DWS around the status of the drought-relief appeal and were unsure if any relief would be granted.

“We played open cards with Gift of the Givers and all parties went into the project with their eyes wide open – the priority was providing relief to the residents of Makana,” he said.

Mjekula said the DWS announced in October they would assist with drought-relief efforts by funding the drilling of boreholes.

“As is necessary and appropriate, and in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act and the conditions of the grant, a proper process was followed in appointing a consultant as the first step,” he said.

“The consultant will complete an underground water study and register the boreholes already drilled."

The tender was awarded following a proper and lawful tender process to undertake the necessary environmental impact studies and assessment of the aquifer to determine the viability, scale and scope of drilling boreholes.”

Mjekula said before that money was released, Gift of the Givers arrived and started drilling boreholes.

“DWS has since informed us, and we agree, that in terms of the relevant legislation and standard government processes, proper regulations must be followed in considering diverting funds to Gift of the Givers. We need to follow these processes so we do not flout supply chain regulations and give rise to audit queries,” he said.

Mjekula said they were considering appointing a service provider through the correct supply chain management regulations to connect the Waainek boreholes to the Waainek Water Works as it was “crucial” to the Makhanda West water supply.

“This is where serious intervention is needed as a result of the drought.”

Mjekula said their work was undertaken “on risk” by themselves and without the same due diligence required of an outside contractor.

“We agreed to this deviation on the basis of the immediate and pressing need being experienced by the city, but at the same time need to ensure that we exercise fairness and diligence in the awarding of tenders and the spending of public money,” he added.

Mjekula, however, said that the water issue had been temporarily solved.

“There is water running from Eastern and Western treatment water work. As needed, water is transferred between the treatment works,” he said.

“For now, the issue is temporarily solved.”