Calls to flush R550m toilet contract

27 June 2011 - 08:57 By ANNA MAJAVU

Parliament's human settlements portfolio committee is set to clash with the ministers of Public Works and of Human Settlements over a state agency the committee wants fired.

The committee recently commissioned legal opinion which found that the government would be within its rights to cancel the second and third phases of the Independent Development Trust's R550-million contract to build pit and flushing toilets in 25 rural municipalities.

The development trust, which falls under the control of the Department of Public Works, was to have completed the first phase of its three-year contract, worth R100-million, in April.

But it managed to spend only R46-million on 8368 pit toilets - a third of which were delivered after the deadline.

Though the committee does not have the power to fire the trust, it plans to table a report in parliament calling for Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde to cancel the rest of the contract.

If parliament accepts the committee's recommendation, Mahlangu-Nkabinde will have to axe the agency.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale last week pleaded with the committee to give the development trust more time.

"The worst thing would be to take government contracts and quickly give them to the private sector. I would want the development trust to fail completely before we do such a thing," he said.

However, MPs told Sexwale that they had been trying for 10 months to get the trust to deliver.

"Huge amounts of money are being forwarded upfront to this agency. How do we get this agency to function? We had less than 50% delivery on sanitation last year," said ANC MP Gloria Bornman.

DA MP Butch Steyn said tender documents indicated that the agency had no experience in sanitation and should not have been given the contract.

"It is precisely when a government agency, over which we have a little bit more control, does not perform that we should get rid of them.

''Sexwale's comment that we should give them time is ludicrous because what happens to the services people are waiting for in the meantime?" Steyn asked.