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Public Works dismisses claims of threat to SA Antarctic team

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The Public Works Department has dismissed claims that a delay in paying invoices for equipment upgrades at South Africa’s Antarctic base is placing a threat on the lives of SA scientists living there.

The claims were contained in an article in the Sunday Times on 12 May 2019. 

The department said it had to take caution to ensure that invoices were paid within budget and in line with work to refurbish the base which commenced in 2015.

“All valid invoices received from the contractor from that time have been honoured. However, by the end of 2018 the work was running into major extensions of scope and price.

“In the circumstances, the department took action, sending an in-house multidisciplinary team of engineers to the Antarctic to physically verify the work actually performed on the base,” said the department.

This exercise discovered numerous discrepancies between the claims made in invoices and the actual work physically verified.

“These findings were made available to the contractor on 28th April with the request that they respond with an explanation and supporting documents by May 3rd. To date no response is forthcoming,” said the department.

Public Works has assured the scientists and their families that the department has already put in place a Facilities Management Plan to safeguard the equipment referred to in the article.

“The Department of Public Works built and maintained the original Antarctic bases and will implement the Facilities Management Plan going forward.

“In the circumstances, it would be highly irresponsible for the department to pay against invoices that are disputed, and for which no explanation is offered by the contractor. Not to do so would amount to financial misconduct in terms of National Treasury prescripts,” said the department.

The department also disputed the claim – made in the same article – that service providers, particularly BEE companies, are suffering as a result of bureaucratic delays.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. It should be noted that 95% of valid invoices in March 2019 were paid within 30 days. 

“The verification process involves certification of work done and all valid and relevant accompanying supporting documents,” said the department.

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