Bloemwater claims R30 000 price tag for toilet not too expensive

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CATHY DLODLO

The biggest part of the R30 000 price tag for toilets built as part of the bucket eradication programme in the Free State went to consultancy fees.

This is according to Free State cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Olly Mlamleli during an exclusive interview about the problems with the bucket eradication programme in the province. Mlamleli was answering questions as part of Bloemfontein Courant’s investigation into the programme in the province. In the first article – last week – questions were raised in parliament about the R30 000 price tag of the toilets paid for by Bloemwater – the implementing agent that was appointed by the national department of water and sanitation and the Free State department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs in 2013. Bloemwater seemed to be charging exorbitant prices, could not reach its target and the majority of toilets that were built could not flush.

Bloemwater CEO Dr Limakatso Moorosi said in her response to detailed questions sent to her, that the toilets were not expensive. She said a "cost comparison exercise was undertaken by the department of water and sanitation and it was established that the cost per unit is fair and acceptable when compared to other provinces," Moorosi said. The cost of a toilet included:
· Survey
· Engineering design
· Geotechnical investigation
· Fees of implementing agent
· Health and hygiene education
· Social facilitation
· Construction costs for sewer and water reticulation/network
· Toilet structure

The cost analysis of the R30 000 price tag for a toilets is, according to Bloemwater, as follows:
· Top structure and end-user education – R12 000.
· Sewer reticulation – R15 000
· Water reticulation – R3000

Moorosi said Bloemwater has eradicated 13692 buckets since November 2013 and R230 000 and R335 337 000 was spent during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial year respectively. Although she said that the toilet at R30 000 per unit was not expensive, the escalation in cost from one financial year to the other is not being explained. Moorosi said the during the presentation of the budget plan for the project to the provincial department of human settlements the price of the toilets were questioned. She said "after much deliberation and scrutiny" the business plan was eventually approved.

Moorosi added that some of the toilets that were built do not flush because they are "dependent on bulk water and sewer infrastructure completion, which are implemented by municipalities and/or the department of water and sanitation". She further acknowledged that the entity did not reach its performance target with 4 308 buckets "due to various factors".
She said Babereki Consulting firm was appointed by Bloemwater on a turnkey basis for the construction of the toilets. This is the same company that was reported to have been involved in the construction of the psychiatric hospital in Kimberley which reportedly was R1.5-billion over budget and seven years behind schedule. In an article by Mail and Guardian the company came under scrutiny when a report – following an investigation into the project – found that a former government official who was in charge of the project had resigned from the Northern Cape provincial government to become a director of Babareki only a month after the company had been awarded the tender.

Mlamleli said the Free State has the highest number of buckets to be eradicated and the department realised that it was spending more money on consultants than on buckets being eradicated in the province. She said her department will soon be meeting Bloemwater and the national department of water and sanitation to take over the project from the entity. She added the involvement of Bloemwater is going to come to an end. This follows after a directive by the select committee on appropriations that entities should not be appointed as implementing agencies.

cathy@centralmediagroup.co.za