Fire station debacle deepens

SHOTHA Engineering employees have gone back to work after being paid their salaries.

Even more problems have emerged with the construction of the new Albertina Sisulu Fire Station, following workers not being paid their salaries.

Also read: Fire station workers unpaid for almost two months

This time Shotha Engineering, the company hired to do the construction work, has been accused of failing to pay a subcontractor over R700 000 for their work.

J and J Construction and Plant Hire owner, Jaco Els, approached Tembisan’s sister newspaper, Kempton Express to complain that Lara Mulaudzi, owner of Shotha Engineering, owed him R777 456 for civil work completed in January.

The company was subcontracted by Shotha Engineering to do the civil work, which included ground work, platforms and supplying the sand on the construction site.

“All he did was send me emails promising to pay the money since January,” Els explained.

J and J Construction and Plant Hire owner Jaco Els brought in an excavator to remove all the foundation work he did but was not paid for.

In one of the letters from Shotha Engineering to J and J Construction, Mulaudzi promised to pay the money by March 24. In the letter, he cites cash flow challenges and a slow inflow as the problem.

Also read: Six new fire stations to be built in five years

In a second email sent to J and J Construction on April 4, Shotha Engineering makes another promise to pay the company R500 000.

The email also says Shota Engineering would press charges of trespassing and damage to property against J and J Construction should they remove any material from the site without a court order entitling them to do so.

On Thursday last week, Els had begun processes to remove his foundation work he had done on site. He decided to not go ahead when Mulaudzi deposited R150 000 into his account, only a fraction of what he is owed.

“I will not remove anything for now. But I will give him another two weeks to pay the rest of the money and if he doesn’t, I will be back to remove the work done by my company,” Els warned.

Even though Mulaudzi claimed the company had financial problems, Ekurhuleni metro confirmed the disaster and emergency management services department paid Shota Engineering on April 26.

The department budgeted R8.4-million in the 2016/17 financial year for the project.

Mulaudzi had submitted an invoice on March 31 but it had discrepancies which had to be corrected by him.

“It was returned by the finance department during the week of April 10 for correction by Shotha Engineering. A corrected invoice was resubmitted to the department on the April 21,” Themba Gadebe, spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni metro, said.

“Council policy dictates that payment of invoices must take place within 30 days after submission of the invoice for payment. The metro would like to confirm that the budgeted amount for the project is below R50m. The payment of the contractor’s employees is an issue between the relevant contractor and his employees.”

Gadebe continued that Mulaudzi misled the department with regards to the projected expenditure.

“It is common practice that a construction contractor, before it embarks on construction of the project, submits a projected cash flow which is in line with the available funds.”

Shotha Engineering submitted a projected cash flow through the relevant consultant, which was then submitted to the department on the amount of funds that will be required until the end of the current financial year.

“The available funds in the budget were enough to carry the project until the end of the current financial year. It implies that the contractor itself misled the department about their projected expenditure.

“If the correct projected flow was sent to the department as required, provision could have been made well in advance before the funds ran out. The contractor outperformed its own projected cash flow for not adhering to the programme as given to the department,” Gadebe confirmed.

Meanwhile, the contract workers on site have gone back to work after being paid their salaries. They had previously stopped working because they hadn’t been paid their money for March.

They still haven’t been given contracts to sign.

The bid for the construction of Albertina Sisulu Corridor Fire Station was awarded to Shota Engineering in September and site hand-over took place in October.

Express contacted Mulaudzi on Monday morning. He said he was busy.

He said he would call Express back. He did not answer further calls. An email requesting comment on the matter was sent to him on Monday.

Nolwazi Dhlamini

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