Pretoria – Scandalous details of how R90 million was used to renovate the Pretoria City Hall over 18 months surfaced on Thursday during a visit by mayor Solly Msimanga to the heritage building. Msimanga said millions were misused in the renovation of the City Hall, which he dubbed “the headquarters of organised crime” in the capital.
His acting spokesman Matthew Gerstner said the project to revamp the facility was commissioned by former mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa in 2014.
The money allegedly squandered on the project is now being investigated by the commercial crimes unit.
Pieter de Necker, the city’s senior strategic executive specialist, said the R90m was used up within 18 months on the project.
De Necker said the building’s greatest dance floor in the world was tampered with against heritage guidelines during the reconstruction. Originally, the dance floor was built with laminated wood on springs and was supposed to be revamped.
But De Necker said the reconstructed floor would have to be removed and replaced with the old one. Work done on the project by Ramokgopa’s administration amounted to wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
Damage was also done to the largest organ in the southern hemisphere, housed inside the City Hall.
The organ has more than 6 000 pipes that have been spoilt by the paint used on the wall.
“They repainted the building with a substandard paint. In the process the carpals were dropped against the organ pipes. All the pipes must be removed and remoulded.”
He said it would cost at least R18m to fix the organ. “We would have to dismantle the whole organ and ship it to Chicago where it was made. We don’t have the skills or the workmanship in South Africa to do the job.”
In the upper centre of the City Hall there was a chandelier, which wasn’t touched by the contractors, according to De Necker. “The plan was to redo the whole place as a green building. We will restore the energy saving mechanism to generate power for the chandelier.”
Msimanga said many appliances such as the microwave had disappeared from the kitchen. “They installed the kitchen unit and a dishwasher, but forgot to make piping for the dishwasher,” he said.
He showed journalists the boardroom set, bought in Korea at a cost of R50 000.
The building was fitted with bullet-proof windows and the floor was not “human-friendly”.
“It is quite sad that we find ourselves in the situation where millions of public money has been spent and nobody has been held to account until now.”
The mayor promised to follow up on the matter to its conclusion. “We are going to sent out a very strong message that if there is money to be spent for the pubic good, it must go to the public good and not end up in the hands of politicians or politically connected individuals.”
Msimanga said in some instances the claims for the project were inflated. “We will be following up on the cases. I am hoping that we really can recover the money that had been spent here,” he said. The mayor said the forensic report on the project formed part of the reports which, once completed, would be handed to law enforcement authorities.
Despite too much money having been spent on the City Hall, more was needed to restore the building properly. The refurbished City Hall would form part of the city’s new direction in boosting the tourism, he added.
Robbers made off with 12 central processing units that the city was utilising to capture connections and log in customer complaints.
City spokesman Lindela Mashigo said how the robbers gained entry to the centre was a subject for investigation by the SAPS. Customers need not worry that all of their information was lost as everything lodged into the system could be recovered. – Additional reporting Goitsemang Tlhabye