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‘Relocation not an option’

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No prohibition order had been issued, while none of the buildings situated on the premises had been condemned or closed.

ABOVE: The report stated that the toilets that have been replaced are not of standard height as they are too low and water is seeping through the floor. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE NORTHERN Cape Provincial Legislature has assured employees that they are “not in any imminent danger” at the precinct and has indicated that relocating again to another building was not an option.

The acting executive manager of committees, research, information services, public education and communication, Nathalia Borchard, explained that they were given 60 days in which to address problems that were outlined during an intensive site visit by the Department of Labour yesterday.

“The department made some recommendations to deal with identified contraventions and make improvements. According to the Department of Labour there are no life-threatening hazards at any of the buildings,” said Borchard.

She added that no prohibition order had been issued, while none of the buildings situated on the premises had been condemned or closed.

“Alternative accommodation is not an option. All staff are being accommodated at the main facility of the legislature. Staff are expected to attend to their respective duties.”

Borchard indicated that steps were taken to adhere to the guidelines contained in the preliminary report that was handed to the legislature by an occupational health and safety consultant on April 4.

“An action plan based on the recommendations of the report, which is related to the structural defects projects as well as safety hazards caused by users, was immediately put in place. The matter was discussed with all stakeholders, including the branch leadership of Nehawu.“

She stated that the decision to relocate back to the legislature precinct was made following broad stakeholder consultation and advice from the appointed professional team that sections of the building were ready and suitable for occupation.

“We had all the reason to believe that the identified buildings were deemed safe. The certificate of compliance will be submitted within 60 days as per the requirement of the Department of Labour.”

Borchard pointed out that at this stage they did not deem it necessary to source additional funding to complete the project.

“The legislature will continue to complete unfinished work and remedial work.”

She stated that any sub-standard work would be addressed within the provisions of the Joint Building Contracts Committee (JBCC) agreement with the contractor.

“The contractor can be held liable for any remedial work. Criminal cases are only considered when there are elements of crime. In terms of the JBCC agreement, it may be done if such can be proven during the assessment stages, where interim payments have been made.”

Borchard assured employees that they would receive their salaries at the end of the month as the newly implemented payroll system was running smoothly.

She pointed out that only one leaking roof was identified in one of the buildings.

“This was due to all contract work not being completed as per the scheduled time. While some items have not been completed, others were not done according to the required standards.”

She said all leaking roofs were attended to with the necessary urgency.

“A request has been made to immediately rectify the installation of the toilets following staff concerns.”

Borchard agreed that the toilets appeared to be “slightly smaller than they used to be”.

“The professional team has been asked to assess this concern. If the cubicles are found to be of sub-standard size, the legislature will have to get an interim solution to provide adequate ablution facilities for staff until the matter is resolved.”

She added that the legislature had requested the municipality to investigate the low water pressure.

Borchard believed that the internal sewerage system did not pose any “extreme or extraordinary” problems. “The external line is a major problem at times and was reported to the municipality. It appears to be a general problem in the city.”

She said the leaking transformers would be examined once the electrical team that “stopped work a while ago” resumed its duties.

“During the project, a large part of the electrical scope of work was done, although not everything was completed. After concerns about hazardous electrical wires were raised by the staff and the union, a local service provider was called in immediately to execute the necessary work.”

Borchard stated that work on the electrical cables in the offices was still ongoing.

“The fire equipment has been serviced; and air conditioning is now functional.”

She said the alarm system would be attended to as part of security compliance improvements, as it did not form part of this project.

“As a national key point, the South African Police Service are stationed at the institution on a 24-hour basis. Minimum security standards are put in place to ensure that all documents and records of the institution are safeguarded.”

She indicated that the cost of repairs to the glass curtain amounted to “well below R2 million”. “The structural engineer will be requested to certify the safety of the installed curtain window, which still has some finishing work outstanding to it.”

Borchard was unable to confirm whether rats had invaded the precinct. “A local pest control specialist has recently conducted general fumigation in all occupied buildings. It is believed that this exercise will deal with all kinds of rodents.”

She said that the professional team and contractor were in possession of the building plans, which would be returned to the legislature upon final completion of the project.

“The legislature needs to get floor plans drafted, indicating emergency exits and the location of firefighting equipment. The fire department has already embarked on an assessment of the occupied buildings and will soon submit their report with recommendations to the legislature.”

She indicated that the occasional water in the basement was caused by a fluctuating water table.

“This can only be properly managed by the installation of proper subsoil drainage systems, inclusive of pumps. The legislature is continuously managing the situation when it occurs. A new subsoil pump has been installed to drain water into the main stormwater system, while other related works are scheduled to be done as soon as possible.”