Cape Town's mountain of red tape strangling city, says chamber of commerce

22 May 2019 - 13:04 By Dave Chambers
A plan to develop Cape Town's foreshore and deal with its unfinished freeways fell apart in July 2018 over tender irregularities. This is an artist's impression of part of the development.
A plan to develop Cape Town's foreshore and deal with its unfinished freeways fell apart in July 2018 over tender irregularities. This is an artist's impression of part of the development.
Image: Mitchell du Plessis Associates

Municipal red tape is strangling growth and job creation, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"Our city council is supposed to enable business and encourage good development but they have now become a disabling force," said chamber president Geoff Jacobs.

He said he had been alarmed by a conference of the Western Cape Property Development Forum last week where it was revealed that developments worth billions of rands had been abandoned because of bureaucratic delays.

This had contributed to a crisis in the construction industry in which hundreds of thousands of jobs had been lost.

An example given at the conference was the R1.6bn former Christiaan Barnard private hospital in the city centre - now replaced by a new building - which was aborted as a result of bureaucratic delays and "incompetence".

Jacobs added: "We have also seen how the whole Foreshore freeway project was called off after several firms and consortiums had spent many millions of rands on some outstanding proposals. Investments would have poured into Cape Town but we lost out because of municipal bungling."

The redevelopment of the Foreshore and resolution of its unfinished freeways was scrapped in July 2018 amid challenges to the awarding of the tender.

Jacobs said in some cases planning approval for developments could take four to eight years.

"The city council seems to have no idea of how much these delays cost and how they destroy viable projects," he said.

Melissa Whitehead, the head of Cape Town's Transport and Urban Development Authority, has been suspended on full pay of more than R3m per annum for more than a year.
Melissa Whitehead, the head of Cape Town's Transport and Urban Development Authority, has been suspended on full pay of more than R3m per annum for more than a year.
Image: African Cities via YouTube

There had been a major forensic investigation into the Transport and Urban Development Authority. Its head, Melissa Whitehead, has been "sitting at home for more than a year on suspension drawing a salary in excess of R3m a year while questions about expensive Chinese electric buses and Volvo bus chassis remain unanswered", he said.

Jacobs said the heart of the problem was "over-regulation and red tape administered by a growing staff of fabulously well paid officials who are simply not doing their jobs".

"The situation is unacceptable."

Electric buses built for the City of Cape Town have been languishing at a depot in Blackheath, Cape Town, for more than a year pending resolution of a wrangle about a tender awarded to Chinese firm BYD
Electric buses built for the City of Cape Town have been languishing at a depot in Blackheath, Cape Town, for more than a year pending resolution of a wrangle about a tender awarded to Chinese firm BYD
Image: Dave Chambers

Last week, the city council municipal public accounts committee was told six investigations were being conducted into the Transport and Urban Development Authority.

They relate to:

  • Alleged unauthorised transactions relating to cash management;
  • A tender for professional services on non-motorised transport projects;
  • A tender for construction of MyCiTi bus infrastructure;
  • Concerns raised about the cancellation of a tender;
  • Non-compliance with supply chain rules over the procurement of electric buses; and
  • Non-compliance with the Municipal Finance Management Act over the first two phases of the MyCiTi bus project.

A response to the chamber of commerce criticism was issued on May 24 by mayoral committee members for economic affairs James Vos. It is reported here.


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