Gift of the Givers' money 'paid to companies that did nothing'
Gift of the Givers, which drilled boreholes in Makhanda to alleviate a looming water crisis, has pulled out of the town in a dispute over the payment of millions of rands.
Despite drilling the boreholes and supplying water to those in need, the nongovernmental organisation said it had not been paid for its services by the municipality, which had made an undertaking to do so. Instead, says Gift of the Givers, private contractors and consultants had been paid for work that had in fact been done by Gift of the Givers. This was R10m of taxpayers' money that was "given away freely".
The organisation said in a statement it did not have a disagreement with the Makhanda municipality, saying the municipality had "been excellent".
The issue appeared to rest with the national department of water and sanitation, which the organisation said was not paying for services rendered.
But the department disagreed with this assessment on Thursday. Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the department's responsibility when it came to disaster areas was to allocate drought relief funds to the affected municipality.
"To this end, the department of water and sanitation has lived up to its responsibility by transferring an amount of R22m to the local municipality for the sole purpose of assisting them to deal with drought challenges in the area," he said.
"The manner in which that money is spent is the responsibility of the concerned municipality and the department does not dictate or interfere with how that money is spent and which service providers are used."
He said any agreement entered into by the municipality and the NGO was a matter between those parties.
Municipal manager Moppo Mene was not immediately available for comment.
The Gift of the Givers said the municipality asked for its help to restore the water supply in February. The NGO drew up a rescue plan, advised that it would cost about R23m to solve the water crisis and said this would require government funding.
The NGO brought in a specialist hydrologist to drill boreholes where the geology was difficult and finding water a challenge.
Gift of the Givers said it was assured that it would be paid with emergency government funding secured by the municipality. But the department later advised the NGO that only companies from the town itself could be paid for drought intervention.
These included a private consultancy at R1.2m for borehole-related work, a second company R7m for boreholes and a third R1.9m for electrical work.
"This is R10m of taxpayers' money handed out freely by the government to people as remuneration for work that Gift of the Givers did," said the organisation's founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, in a statement.
"Our hearts are with the people of Makhanda, the elderly, the women and children and everyone who waited so patiently for water but as a matter of principle we cannot continue," Sooliman said.