The Gauteng government has admitted that a much-needed R197-million Johannesburg road refurbishment project to alleviate stifling traffic congestion is only 10% complete, about 31 months after the tender was advertised.
The provincial government's admission comes on the back of contractor GMK Civils – the company awarded the contract to refurbish the 4.8km stretch on Beyers Naudé Road in April last year – claiming that it has not abandoned the project but has "equipment and personnel on-site".
However, when News24 visited the site about two weeks ago, there were only growing weeds amid a pile of rubbish at said "site", with no sign of activity or workers on Beyers Naudé, contrary to what GMK said through its lawyer, Rudolph Baloyi.
Moreover, Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport spokesperson Lesiba Mpya said the provincial government's R763.6-million budgetary underspending – while projects remain unfinished, as reported by News24 on Monday – was being fixed, saying the lack of spending was "mainly because of delays in revising the organisational structure".
The underspending was recorded in the department's 2022/23 annual report and the Auditor-General's statement, which mentioned that the department's accounting officer Thulani Mdadane "did not adequately exercise oversight responsibility over financial reporting and compliance with applicable laws and regulations, which resulted [in] instances of non-compliance not being identified".
However, Mpya said Mdadane joined the department in March 2023 in the financial year's last month, meaning it was "unfair, malicious and unwarranted to place the blame squarely at him for any of the shortcomings identified by the Auditor-General in 2022/23".
"It is also important to point out that the accounting officer, upon arrival in the department, immediately established an Auditor-General improvement war room to address these findings. The accounting officer chairs weekly meetings to monitor and report progress against the recommendations provided," Mpya said.
Incomplete R197m project
The Beyers Naudé tender was advertised in April 2019 and GMK, initially bidding for R168.9-million, received the contract with the value hiked by nearly R30-million despite nine other companies offering lower prices, two of which were lower than R168.9-million.
Mpya conceded to News24 that the department had experienced delays in the project, adding that the provincial government had devised plans to remedy the situation.
"The current progress on-site is sitting at approximately 10% since the site was handed over to the contractor. The works partly done include site establishment, site clearance and layer works," Mpya said.
This is contrary to contractor GMK's views, which said through Baloyi, on company director Sabelo Mjwara's behalf, that the project was progressing and workers were on-site.
During its visit, News24 spoke to several informal traders and taxi operators in the area, some of whom said it had been months since any construction activity had happened on the road, which – based on its location near a bustling taxi rank and because it is a busy route – experiences heavy traffic during both peak and off-peak hours.
Meanwhile, the Auditor-General stated in the Roads and Transport Annual Report that senior managers in the department exhibited poor financial performance, including that they "did not adequately review and monitor compliance with applicable laws and regulations, which resulted [in] material non-compliances reported in this report.
"Senior management did not prepare regular, accurate and complete financial information, which resulted in the material misstatements on the submitted financial statements."
Mpya, however, said the poor performance received attention from Mdadane's "financial preparation plan", supported by a progress checklist.
"The financial data and information are reviewed and signed off by each programme deputy director-general before the financial report is updated. This ensures that the information captured is verified for accuracy and completeness. Auditor-General issues have been incorporated into senior management performance agreements," Mpya said.