'First-class' offices at a price

A plan to move the offices of Buffalo City Metro’s political leadership to a rental building is set to cost the metro more than R26-million for three years from next year.

The plan to obtain “first-class” office accommodation for 104 politicians and officials in the East London CBD was presented to the council recently by city manager Andile Sihlahla.

BCM needed 2776m² to fit everyone in, he said.

But controversy has surrounded the move after it was revealed in council that Sihlahla had failed to consult spatial planning and development head Nonceba Mbali-Majeng and the portfolio head, councillor Pumla Nazo-Makatala.

The move is set to accommodate the offices of the executive mayor, deputy mayor and council speaker, who currently operate from the East London City Hall.

Proportional representative (PR) councillors, traditional leaders and their support staff will also be accommodated in the new building.

ANC and DA councillors questioned the huge financial implications of the deal. Some told Sihlahla to look for a better deal.

The Daily Dispatch understands the Caxton House building is the preferred option.

The Dispatch has previously reported on the appalling state of the building. Renovations started in 2014.

“A hundred parking bays will be required and must be within the building of the required office accommodation,” Sihlahla said.

He recommended that R26.5-million be included in the mid-year budget adjustment and would include VAT and monthly variable costs.

ANC ward 35 (Tyutyu and Zinyoka) councillor Siyabonga Skolo called for the move to be deferred, saying: “We will be paying more than R8-million per year for three years, that is a bit too much. We are also urging the office to fast-track this sleeper site project because we believe it will assist us in this disaster we are seeing.”

ANC ward 31 (Ncera and Kidds Beach) councillor Sindile Toni said: “When the report comes back to council it must look at the possibilities of a sleeper site as outlined in our spatial planning.”

Renting was unsustainable, he said.

ANC ward 25 (Phakamisa and Zwelitsha) councillor Crosby Kolela lambasted Sihlahla for not including Mbali-Majeng and Nazo in drawing up his report.

“Why, city manager, will you bypass your senior managers? That can’t be correct. Those HODs are appointed by this council.”

Failure to work with officials under him would “create a commotion in your own administration”, Kolela said.

“You will collapse this administration.”

Responding to the criticism, Sihlahla said an office accommodation committee had been appointed which included him.

However Nazo-Makatala reacted: “Order! I would like the city manager to withdraw. We have deferred this report and I think we should go and debate it outside this council. If he is going to talk about committees I will answer because I don’t know this report, but I have a responsibility to do oversight so I’m asking him to withdraw. We have deferred it.”

DA councillor Dharmesh Dhaya said: “In the last meeting we attended, we were told that Caxton House was already the preferred house. So I want to clarify if Caxton House is the preferred building and if so, why is that not included in this report? I want to see a full and comprehensive report on why we need a new building, on how we have come to this conclusion.”

DA councillor Annette Rademeyer demanded to know where the PR councillors based in King William’s Town would operate from as their constituents were not in East London.

BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya had not responded to questions sent by the Dispatch by the print deadline yesterday. — mamelag@dispatch.co.za

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