Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE much anticipated Egodini bus terminus rehabilitation project in Bulawayo could turn out to be a pie in the sky, with the contractor, Terracotta Private Limited still failing to resume works at the site, three months after being given a final warning by councillors.
More than eight years after the South Africa-based company was awarded the tender, it seems the local authority could bow in to public pressure and be forced to reconsider the deal. Terracotta, which won the tender in 2014, gave a rave review as part of their resume, stating that their past projects include the Edendale Shopping Mall in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, Chris Hani Crossing Taxi facility in Gauteng and the Tsakane Mall Taxi rank again in Gauteng.
However, despite the hype surrounding the project very little work has taken place at the site, with the local authority early this year coming close to withdrawing the project after it failed to meet a number of set deadlines.
In the latest development, a red flag has once more been raised relating to the project as no work has been taking place on site despite the local authority, three months ago, giving the company a final warning over the delays.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) co-ordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu took a swipe at the local authority’s handling of the project noting that before the contract was awarded Terracotta had to be thoroughly vetted, focusing on the capacity to implement the project in the given time frame.
“The manner in which the whole project was designed was bound to fail. Such a huge project with zero resources upfront was bound to hit a brick wall. It’s clear some council officials used their bargaining power with the contractor to force BCC to award the tender to Terracotta in exchange for ‘kick-backs’ knowing fully that Terracotta had no capacity.
“The project was noble but execution was disastrous. We have always warned that cartels have taken advantage of BCC non-existent systems to enforce compliance and have continued to benefit from flawed systems at the expense of service delivery,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said it was sad that council has been increasingly turned into an arena where dramatic cases of corruption play out, which was going on to severely affect service delivery.
“Hardly a week goes by without the revelation of another major scandal in public procurement. Where a procurement system is loose, there are opportunities for abuse of the tender process through patronage and corruption. The project should be simply put to re-tender as that has become the new normal,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Commenting on the matter, the city’s acting mayor, Councillor Mlandu Ncube revealed with the renewed pressure on the implementation of the project council would be forced to review the contract seeing that no notable progress was taking place.
He said in July council deliberated on the matter, with Terracotta citing the pull out of their initial investor and the delays by the local authority in handing over the site as part of the reasons, for the delay.
“Residents are within their rights to be concerned because it is obviously their rates, now as councillors it is for us to go back to the drawing board and reconsider this contract and come up with a decision which is best suited to our key stakeholders, who are the residents.
“Three months ago, we had a robust discussion on the same matter and they (Terracotta) told us they had lost their main investor but they had now got a new one, promising us that they would soon resume works, but to date we are surprised that nothing seems to be happening,” said Deputy Mayor Ncube.
He said as councillors they had given the contractor a final warning in terms of meeting the set deadlines of which they had already defaulted the warning.
“The bigger picture is that we now need that project implemented, a single development project can honestly not be allowed to drag on for this long, if the contractor no longer has the capability to continue, they rather inform us instead of playing a cat and mouse game,” said the deputy mayor.
The project which experienced a number of false starts since Terracotta won the tender in September 2012, is expected to gobble close to $60 million, with the company also awarded a 99-year lease to the terminus.
According to a council report Phase 1A of the project was expected to be complete by September, while Phase 1B had been set for November.
Phase 1A, according to the contractor, includes the construction of 1 100 informal traders’ stalls, a 100-bay taxi rank, security wall, security tower, motor retail, taxi associations offices, public ablutions and a service lane. Phase 1B includes the construction of the bus terminus building, fast food shops and the grocery anchor.