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Johannesburg - A construction firm owner, who Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi named and shamed for neglecting potholes on a busy highway between Krugersdorp and Pretoria, wants an apology.
Simon Ntuli, a director of Big Eye Investments 210 CC,which was singled out by an incensed Vadi in March for neglecting to repair the N14 highway, told the Saturday Star this week that his company was not to blame for the potholes.
But Vadi’s department insisted the MEC was right to state the possible consequences to the contractor for not meeting his contractual obligations, which includes possible termination of his services and blacklisting.
The road in question is used daily by more than 25 000 cars and trucks.
“At the time it was raining a lot in Gauteng and we couldn’t get hot-mix asphalt (a combination of cement and sandstone used to repair road surfaces) made anywhere in the province because of the rain,” Ntuli said.
“We only had cold mix which is temporary and cannot be laid down when its raining.
“There were many potholes because the quality of that road, which we didn’t make, is poor.”
Vadi issued a warning to construction companies doing business with his department. He said they were endangering motorists and passengers’ lives by “neglecting” their duty.
The MEC had joined his maintenance crew of more than 260 repairing the potholes after heavy rains in Gauteng when he made the comments.
Vadi said at the time that it was clear the damage to the road was not caused by heavy rains – maintenance was not carried out.
However, Ntuli said he had been unable to defend himself because of a family bereavement at the time.
He said the MEC couldn’t possibly blacklist his company.
“It was unfortunate (the attack by Vadi), but the MEC is a person and he can say that by mistake. I am still waiting for the apology because I did my job. It wasn’t my company that made that poor road.”
According to the department, Big Eye Investment 210 CC was given a tender valued at almost R122 million over a period of three years to maintain the road.
Ntuli said an impression had been created that his company had been paid money for the job but failed to carry it out.
He said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“You don’t get the money before you do the work,” he said. “There is no way we got paid money before working. For the work we completed the consultant and the client came on site to inspect the work and then we were paid.”
Ntuli said he held a meeting with the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport officials and their consultant after the MEC’s outbursts, and they had accepted his explanation.
On Friday, Vadi’s spokeswoman Octavia Mamabolo said the department had imposed a penalty of R2.2 million on the contractor.
She said the department paid the contractor to keep the road free of potholes and applied penalties if potholes were not repaired within the prescribed period.
“Further financial penalties are likely to be imposed based on an assessment of performance for the month of May 2014,” she said.