The long-awaited Public Protector’s report on the Bloemfontein taxi rank in the Free State has come out in favour of Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.
In her report, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane states that there is no evidence of maladministration on the part of Mangaung Metro regarding the construction of the Intermodal Transport Facility located in the city’s central business district.
The investigation into the facility dates back to 2012, when Mkhwebane’s predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, was at the helm. The complaint was lodged by a Mr MI Liphoko on 30 July 2012 in which he alleged that the municipality was allocated about R400 million for the facility by the National Department of Transport, of which only R40 million had been accounted for.
The complainant alleged that the municipality inflated the price of the taxi tank when it only used R40 million and pocketed the difference. Liphoko’s complaint was lodged on the day that Madonsela was attending a consultative dialogue in Bloemfontein, where various complaints were raised about the unused facility. Mkhwebane’s predecessor was taken on a visit to see the facility and promised to look into the allegations surrounding the construction of the building as well as the reasons why it had become dubbed a white elephant.
In her findings on the matter, the current Public Protector states that the Mangaung Metro not only provided evidence that the grant from the National Department of Transport and the expenditure were appropriated in a budget as per the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), they further provided proof that the total amount spent was close to R400 million.
The complainant, on the other hand, provided no evidence to support his allegations against the municipality. The report further absolves the municipality of undue delay in completing the taxi tank which was meant to be up and running by 2010 for the FIFA World Cup but ended up only being completed a year later.
Mkhwebane implies that the delay was due to the extensive consultation between all the various stakeholders being mostly taxi associations during the planning and approval of each phase. This is despite the infrastructural issues that were identified regarding the facility as well as the replacement of stolen copper cables in 2012 which had rendered the building non-compliant for electrical installation.
The report, however, does not delve into who is responsible for the facility remaining unused for so many years. It has been reported that mere weeks after the municipality opened a facility in 2011, taxi operators boycotted the building citing several structural issues. These issues included a narrow pathway, as well as congestion at the exit entrance, which was exacerbated by these narrow pathways. All these rendered the building one of the City of Roses’ most notable ‘white elephants’.
Olebogeng Motse / OFM News