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KZN Education denies water tanks cost R170,000 each

21 June 2020 - 00:00 By ORRIN SINGH
The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has come under fire for water tanks. File photo.
The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has come under fire for water tanks. File photo.

As the dust continues to swirl around the Eastern Cape’s R10m fleet of Chinese motorcycle ambulances, another procurement row has erupted in KwaZulu-Natal over R28,000 water tanks.

The 5,000l tanks, which cost as little as R3,900 direct from the manufacturer, are being rolled out to schools that have no running water so children can wash their hands when they return to class as the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted.

The provincial education department confirmed this week that it was paying R28,000 for the purchase, delivery and installation with a stand, earning derision on social media among commentators who pointed out that the same item cost as little as R4,899 from a wholesaler.

The department, which “mislaid” personal protective equipment worth millions of rands two weeks ago, was forced into its statement by a social media post claiming it was spending R170,000 on each tank.

“The fact of the matter is that the department spent R28,000 per 5,000l water tank and R6,500 per hand-washing station. The above prices are inclusive of delivery, stands and installation,” it said.

According to the department, the implementing agencies rolling out its infrastructure projects are the Independent Development Trust, the Coega Special Economic Zone and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

“The processes administered by these agencies resulted in the enlisting of services of 37 companies to install hand-wash stations and 147 companies to install static water tanks.”

Spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi would not say who signed off on the cost of the tanks.

The Eastern Cape health department is embroiled in controversy after unveiling 100 specially adapted motorcycles with sidecars as part of a three-year, R10.1m project. The “prambulances”, which have an oxygen tank, masks, stretcher bed and first-aid kit, cost R94,000 each. They are advertised on alibaba.com for $1,050 (about R18,000), without the ancillary equipment.

Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mahlanga did not respond to Sunday Times queries about the tanks but the National Treasury said it had not issued pricing models for procurement of such tanks.

The owner of a company supplying some of the 41,000 water tanks the government aims to provide nationally said prices were market related.

“A 5,000l tank with a steel stand is probably costing about R17,000 to procure, deliver and install. I was awarded a small portion. There are companies that are sitting with thousands of orders,” he said.

The same tank retails for R4,500-R5,000 at wholesale stores but one manufacturer in the Eastern Cape said its price was R3,900, including delivery anywhere in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal or the Eastern Cape.

The CEO of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA, Thirona Moodley, said the union would raise the issue at a provincial steering committee meeting. “We cannot have the department paying inflated prices to have schools open … By the same token, we cannot have unscrupulous suppliers exploiting the department’s vulnerable position.”


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