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Community halts paving project at school

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A paving project at Rooirand High School in Barkly West was halted on Monday as the community is unhappy over the appointment of the sub-contractor and workers.

Residents in Rooinkrans, Barkly West have brought construction work at a new school in the area to a stand-still. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A PAVING project at Rooirand High School in Barkly West was halted on Monday as the community is unhappy over the appointment of the sub-contractor and workers.

Community member Kagisho Gaolehelwe alleged that a member of the steering committee was awarded the R2 million paving tender.

“The steering committee was supposed to recommend the names of three sub-contractors, whereas the steering committee member appointed his own company to benefit from the project. We stopped the paving project in a peaceful manner so that all processes should be followed,” said Gaolehelwe.

He added that the community had compiled a list of people who “should have been employed on the project”.

“Instead, 12 friends and family members of the steering committee were hired without any transparent recruitment and selection processes, without consulting the community.

“The workers started working on site on Monday.”

Gaolehelwe also claimed that R55,000 was paid to steering committee members.

“Therefore it is a conflict of interests to have a committee member receiving a tender for the project.”

Another community member, Stephen Kgosing, added that he was a qualified occupational health and safety officer but was told that he would “never work” at the school.

“I live across the road from where the school is being constructed. Workers are being hired from their shanties.”

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Sydney Stander said they were aware of disruptions to the project on Monday relating to grievances from the community regarding the appointment of the contractor.

“There is a steering committee that was appointed and the paving contractor was appointed by the steering committee,” said Stander.

“Through our preliminary engagement with the contractor, it would appear that community members on the steering committee deviated from the agreed community list of contractors and that a contractor was irregularly appointed for the paving project

“As a result of this, the work was interrupted and efforts are being made to finalise or remedy the matter.”

Stander added that the main contractor was committed to dealing with all matters. “Work is expected to commence before the end of this week.

“The construction work on the project is at 90 percent completion. The cost of the project is just over R94 million and the school is expected to be ready for its first intake in the 2023 academic year.”

Stander stated that while the department oversaw compliance with supply chain management processes and the awarding of contracts, the steering committee, which was constituted out of the contractor and community representatives, managed the hiring of sub-contractors.

“The steering committee acts on behalf of the community to make sure that the community is represented on the project. Remuneration of the steering committee is agreed upon by the contractor and the steering committee members.

“The department is quite confident that the project is on course and that the community of Barkly West will take full ownership of the school and use it to support their children on the road to a better future for all.”

The chairperson of the steering committee, Tebogo Raadt, stated that all sub-contractors on site were appointed without any problems since the project started in 2019.

“A dispute only arose with the appointment of the last sub-contractor. We presented the names of three companies that are all owned by local women and the main contractor chose the preferred service provider.”

He added that the community alleged that one of the women was favoured as she was in a relationship with one of the steering committee members.

“The steering committee was in no way involved in the appointment of the paving contractor and did not influence the final decision.”

Raadt explained that it was a small community. “Ward 3 is a small area and it is not uncommon for cousins, siblings and blood relatives to stay in the same area.

“It is standard practice to select workers by picking identity documents out of a box. Those who are complaining are bitter or do not qualify to work on the site.”

Raadt stated that the workers were legally appointed and had signed valid contracts.

“The bill of quantities makes provision for allowances to be paid to the steering committee to convene meetings. If any community member has any evidence relating to corruption we will gladly co-operate with any criminal investigation.”

He indicated that they met with the community on Monday afternoon, where it was agreed that the 12 workers who were chosen by the community could also be employed on the paving project.

“There is enough work to employ a total of 24 workers for the paving. The work will be completed faster in a shorter time frame as there are more workers on the job. Work commenced on Tuesday and the new group of workers will start on site on Wednesday.”

Residents in Rooinkrans, Barkly West have brought construction work at a new school in the area to a stand-still. Pictures: Soraya Crowie

Video: Soraya Crowie

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