Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Nineteen Eastern Cape schools risk starting the year without any water thanks to the Department of Basic Education’s alleged failure to pay a service provider R1.9m.

Jo-Minproc Engineering is threatening to remove water supply infrastructure on Tuesday at schools in Queenstown and Sterkspruit. Company manager Eric Sefa said lawyers had been instructed to seek an interdict preventing the water supply being reconnected until the payments have been made.

The company got a four-month water and sanitation tender for the schools in 2014 as part of the accelerated school infrastructure delivery initiative‚ which is aimed at providing water and sanitation, as well as replacing inadequate classrooms. The Eastern Cape‚ which has a major problem with mud schools‚ is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the programme.

In e-mails sent to the department and seen by The Times‚ Sefa said that due to the lack of payment‚ his company has had to retrench staff and faces a fine from SARS as a result of unpaid taxes.

Education Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said payments were up to date. "A batch of invoices from Jo-Minproc was paid ... in December 2015‚ followed by another two in 2016‚" he said. "Payments were up to date up until December 7‚ when the latest invoice was received just before the break‚ and this — along with a series of variation orders — is being processed."

Threats to cut the water supply were baffling‚ Mhlanga said‚ as the department had met Jo-Minproc and agreed on a "way forward". "The [department] is not aware of the threats and the law would have to take its course in the eventuality of this happening‚ following the precepts of commercial law‚" he said. "Jo-Minproc fully understand the contract between them and our implementing agents."

Sefa said the payments Mhlanga referred to were not for the completed work on the 19 schools. From 2014‚ Sefa said‚ his company has experienced delays from the department to the point that his company has had to halt work.

TMG Digital

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