'There were no guarantees,' says municipality at odds with Gift of the Givers over payment

16 May 2019 - 15:32 By ERNEST MABUZA
NGO Gift of the Givers, in partnership with the National Arts Festival, successfully sank a borehole outside the 1820 Settlers Monument in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape.
NGO Gift of the Givers, in partnership with the National Arts Festival, successfully sank a borehole outside the 1820 Settlers Monument in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape.
Image: nationalartsfestival.co.za

When the Gift of the Givers drilled boreholes at Makhanda in the Eastern Cape to help  with the supply of water to the drought-stricken town, the NGO did so of its own accord.

There were no guarantees given about reimbursement or funding, the Makana municipality said on Thursday.

This was the municipality's reaction to the abrupt withdrawal of the Gift of the Givers from Makhanda, citing a dispute over the payment of millions of rands.

The NGO claimed in a statement it had been informed that other companies would be reimbursed for the work it had done, including the drilling of boreholes. The organisation said its intervention to stave off a water shortage crisis had cost R15m.

The municipality said on Thursday that engagement with the organisation had been ongoing in an attempt to find a funding mechanism whereby Gift of the Givers could be compensated for the work it had done for the city.

The municipality said the organisation's announcement came in the midst of those discussions. Its statement "seemed to be an attempt to influence those discussions".

The municipality admitted that it had requested the NGO to assist with emergency relief following water shortages in the city in February.

"This intervention was greatly appreciated by the residents of the city and the municipality."

It said the intervention had ensured that residents were provided with clean, safe and drinkable water in a time of crisis.

During this period, the NGO also began implementing long-term solutions by drilling boreholes at key sites around the city, the municipality said.

"Gift of the Givers is quite correct to say that they did so of their own accord and no guarantees were given by Makana municipality about reimbursement or funding."

The municipality said in October 2018 that the national department of water and sanitation had said it would help with drought relief efforts by funding the drilling of boreholes.

It said a proper process had been followed in appointing a consultant as the first step to complete an underground water study and to register the boreholes already drilled.

The municipality said before the release of the grant, Gift of the Givers had arrived in Makhanda and drilled boreholes based on their own assessment of the situation. The municipality said it had since been informed by the department that proper regulations had to be followed in considering any funding to the Gift of the Givers.

"We need to follow these processes so that we do not flout supply chain regulations and give rise to audit queries."

The municipality said it hoped the impasse with the NGO would be resolved in a way that they were compensated for their efforts.

The department of water and sanitation said it had transferred R22m to the municipality to deal with its drought challenges. Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said how the money was spent was the responsibility of the municipality, and not the department.