South Coast engineer queries cost of Gauteng road project on national TV

FILE PHOTO of Peter Brauteseth.

LOCAL engineer, Peter Brauteseth, was one of the experts interviewed on the television actuality programme, Carte Blanche recently, about alleged inflated costs of the recently completed Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and claims against companies involved that were found to have colluded.

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Recently the civil action group, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has taken South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) to task, claiming the costs of the Gauteng project were inflated by R9,6-billion and calling on government to investigate.

In February last year Outa released a paper that compared the cost of the project to a number of international case studies. Outa claimed the rest of the world was able to build between two and three roads for every one road that Sanral built.

It also conducted a high level costing exercise of the R17,9-billion project and claimed Sanral had grossly overpaid for it by approximately R10,8-billion between 2008 and 2012.

Subsequently, Outa, incensed by what it called Sanral’s “adversarial” attitude, conducted wider and deeper research into the cost of road building, engaging with experienced industry experts.

Outa recently released an updated position paper entitled ‘The Road to Excess: A Paper on High Pricing, Collusion and Capture of National Road Construction’.

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Outa had also gathered more information on other road construction projects (internationally and closer to home), which offered further benchmarking evidence to prove an excessively inflated price was paid for the project. It has estimated an overpayment of between R9-billion and R10-billion for this project.

Responding to these allegations, Sanral has rejected what it called Outa’s “rehashed research report” on alleged collusive practices on its Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, pointing out that the estimated cost was R1.2-billion lower than their estimate release in 2016.

“Outa – again – compares projects that are incomparable and compounds this basic error by generalising complex engineering projects which international experts, including those in their own examples, warn against,” said Vusi Mona, Sanral’s head of communications.

He said the premise that there was a single or specific unit cost for road construction was fiction. The costs of road construction differed widely depending on many factors.

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“Outa alleges they were not given access to the information they sought. The fact is that Sanral subscribes to the Promotion of Access to Information Act and Outa was, through a letter, given full access in July 2016. It has to date not taken up this offer,” says Mr Mona.

He pointed out that Sanral had instituted civil claims against companies found by the Competition Commission to have colluded regarding the Gauteng project. However, as a state-owned entity it abided by the settlement announced by government in October 2016.

Also, rather than doing nothing about the collusion matter, as Outa claimed, Sanral had reported it to the police.

“We remain of the view the tender process was sound and there was no corruption from Sanral. We were the victims of a crime and therefore reported the matter to the South African Police Services where a statement was made,” he said.

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  AUTHOR
Judi Davis
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