Gift of the Givers workers load tons of water onto trucks at their storage facility in Maitland. The water was destined for Makhanda (Grahamstown). File photo: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA).

PORT ELIZABETH - The Makana Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape said on Thursday that Gift of the Givers had undertaken to do work entirely "on risk" in water scarce Makhanda.  

The statement by the municipality comes after Gift of the Givers withdrew its services this week after it emerged that emergency funding provided by national government would only be paid to private contractors not to the relief organisation which rushed to the region's aid in the midst of a crippling drought crisis.

The Makana Municipality said it had, on a number of occasions, engaged Gift of the Givers around possible solutions to find another funding mechanism whereby the organisation could be compensated for the work they had done, "cognisant of the fact that their work was undertaken entirely on risk”.  

The municipality said that work undertaken by Gift of the Givers was done without thorough and rigorous due diligence that the municipality required of an outside contractor. 

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman had earlier said the organisation was advised that only companies from Makhanda would be paid for drought intervention work despite Gift the Givers undertaking huge emergency relief projects including the drilling of boreholes. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Water and Sanitation said it had lived up to its responsibility by transferring an amount of R22 million to Makana Local Municipality for the sole purpose of assisting the municipality to deal with drought challenges. 

DWS spokesperson Sputnik Rau said the department would not involve itself in any agreement between the municipality and the organisation. 

On a matter of principle, Sooliman said they would leave the town, along with its Jojo tanks and filtration systems they had brought in to relieve the municipality’s water crisis. 

Thus far the intervention had cost them R15m, Sooliman said.

He added that R10m of taxpayers' money would now be handed out by government to other parties as remuneration for work that Gift of the Givers had already done. 

In February, the organisation brought in a specialist hydrologist who struck liquid gold when he found drinking water at his first drilling attempt into a rock formation. The organisation went on to drill 15 boreholes. 

Gift of the Givers arrived at the municipality at a critical time after the drought had left dams on the west critically low and some residents had been without water in their taps for weeks. On a daily basis clean drinking water was delivered to local and rural communities, the water quality of the boreholes was tested, and Jojo tanks were installed in communal areas. 

Sooliman said that when they arrived on site, the organisation drew up a rescue plan and commenced the process of "saving the city" immediately. 

"We advised the municipality that the cost to solve the problem will be in the region of R23m and that this will require government funding. They said the area has been declared a disaster in the government gazette and they will receive emergency funding with which they will remunerate Gift of the Givers." 

According to Makana Municipality, it agreed to a deviation on the basis of the immediate and pressing need being experienced by the town. But the metro said it needed to ensure that fairness and diligence was exercised in the awarding of tenders.  

"DWS has since informed us, and we agree, that in terms of the relevant legislation and standard government processes, proper regulations must be followed in considering any funding to Gift of the Givers. We need to follow these processes so that we do not flout supply chain regulations and give rise to audit queries. 

"We will continue to engage with Gift of the Givers to find a path through the current impasse. Meetings have been held with them this week, and it is our hope that they will continue to be held in good faith while we find a solution within the rules and guidelines of National Treasury. At the same time we need to allow the consultant the space to fulfill their contractual obligations to the City, and to honour the terms of the agreement with them." 

African News Agency (ANA)