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GCIS furniture for spanking new HQ could cost R50m

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PN GCIS furniture tender086 (28128534)

GCIS

Layouts and plans show a GCIS chief executives office at 58m2. An RDP house is about 36m2.

LOUISE FLANAGAN

GOVERNMENT spin doctors will get new desks and furniture… in a deal that could cost taxpayers R50 million.

In April, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) – the government communicators – will move to a brand new seven-storey customised office building in Hatfield.

And the department wants brand new furniture to go with it.

The new furniture – a 38-page shopping list – must come with “training and training manuals”.

“The furniture should be brand new and no second-hand will be accepted,” the GCIS list says.

GCIS wants everything from desks and meeting room tables to patio furniture and coat hangers.

Electronic equipment is not included.

The department is shopping without a budget.

“The reason we have gone on a bidding process is because we are unable to determine the exact amount it will cost. We will only know once the process has been concluded,” said GCIS acting chief executive Phumla Williams when asked for a cost estimate.

A Joburg furniture salesman, who declined to be named, said the contract could “comfortably” be worth R50m or more.

After looking through the list and specifications for the items, he said it could be done cheaper with a bit of sense and effort.

The GCIS budget briefly mentions plans to spend “R50m in 2012/13 for office accommodation and costs related to the new head office building”.

Some of the old GCIS furniture could be recycled.

“Any redundant and obsolete furniture may be cleared and safely disposed of, thereby avoiding unnecessary waste going into landfill,” said the list.

Williams said GCIS would not throw away usable furniture and would donate this.

“Some of the current furniture, depending on whether it fits into the office plan of the new building, will be kept and used,” she said.

Getting the furniture into the seven-storey building could be a problem, as the department wants it from March 1, but the lifts will only start working when the building is officially handed over a month later.

Much of the furniture listed has clear specifications, down to the colour code, indicating high costs. Some must be approved by the architect.

The potential costs illustrate prioritising the comfort of bureaucrats over basic service delivery.

For example, the list includes more than 500 desks and, if priced at about R3 500 for most of them, that’s about R1.75m; this doesn’t take into account high-end desks.

That R1.75m is enough to buy about 3 000 school desk-and-chair sets, which are still needed in many schools.

The furniture salesman said the formica finish specified on many items was not quoted on anymore nowadays “because it’s so expensive”. The “polished aluminium” in/out trays specified would be about R540 each (that’s nearly R250 000 for the lot). “Trays and pen holders often end up in the bottom of drawers,” he said.

He questioned the need for coathangers – “you only ever get those in state tenders” – and priced the executive desk pad at R1 700.

The salesman estimated about R60 000 for a 20-seater table, up to R90 000 for a 24-seater, as listed.

The four sets of three items – desk, credenza and mobile pedestal cabinet – for an executive’s office could run to R100 000.

Add armchairs, couches, bookshelves, and the cost spirals.

The salesman said an IT employee’s workspace shouldn’t cost more than about R14 000, including computer and software.

The GCIS furniture, at the possible R50m for the total 500 employees nationally, runs to R100 000 an employee without computers.

Layouts and plans show a chief executive’s office that’s 58m2 (an RDP house is about 36m2).

GCIS will pay R242.3m to rent the new offices for five years, with an option to renew. The office block was built an estimated at cost of between R280m to R310m.


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