TENDER IRREGULARITIES UNCOVERED IN PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT – Tender irregularities of about R3-billion were uncovered in a probe into the Public Works Department, says Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde. "We know of more than 40 cases where tenders were awarded improperly, where procedures were not followed and dishonesty took place," says the Public Works Minister in a statement. "We know of irregular expenditure, what appears to be false book-keeping and have discovered evidence of corruption by department officials." Criminal charges were likely to be brought against several officials and outsiders.
The Minister, who was appointed ten months ago, admits that her department has failed South Africans, and she vows to root out corrupt personnel.
TAXI INDUSTRY LAUNCHES AIRLINE – A new airline to open up the skies for taxi commuters was launched at Lanseria airport earlier this month. Santaco airlines, the brainchild of the South African National Taxi Council, will offer an all-in-one transport system between taxi ranks in different provinces. The first phase of the service will operate between Lanseria airport, north of Johannesburg, Bhisho in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town. "This is a historic day for the taxi industry . . . we are not rewriting history, we are part of the history of South Africa," Santaco secretary general Philip Taaibosch said at the "proof-of-concept" launch in Lanseria. Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi says the launch of an airline for cash-strapped commuters, specifically black commuters, is a "dream come true". Taxi council president Jabulani Mthembu says aviation is a tough industry to break into, but Santaco will "travel where everyone else is scared to travel". The airline is expected to launch commercially at the end of the year.
WATER COMMITTEE MAKING PROGRESS – MOLEWA – The special task team appointed in June to advise on a turnaround strategy for the Water Affairs department has made "considerable progress", says Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. The department has had a rough time regarding negative findings by the Auditor General on its annual report over the past few years, she told a media briefing at Parliament. Parliament's public accounts committee has also raised several concerns over the department's financial and operational management. The committee has already started addressing a number of debilitating issues preventing the department from doing its job. One of the greatest problems facing water provision is the ageing water resource infrastructure. Initiatives to address the backlog on refurbishment of infrastructure are being developed, with a rigorous asset management system being implemented.
EGYPT, ETHIOPIA TO REVIEW IMPACT OF MEGA DAM – Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed to set up a technical team to review the impact of a $4.8-billion Nile river dam, which Addis Ababa announced in March, says Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Egypt has been worried over changes to colonial-era treaties since Nile basin nations, including Ethiopia, signed a deal last year that strips Cairo of the right to the lion's share of the river's waters and effectively removes its veto power over dam projects. Egypt, witnessing a growing population and rising temperatures, is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its water and has been nervously watching hydropower dam projects take shape in upriver nations. "We have agreed to quickly establish a tripartite team of technical experts to review the impact of the dam that is being built in Ethiopia," Zenawi told a news conference with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. Experts from Sudan will also be part of the team.
EATON TOWERS SECURES $150M FUNDING FOR AFRICA – Telecoms company Eaton Towers has secured $150-million in private equity funding to expand its tower-sharing business in Africa, which is enabling mobile operators to roll out services to remote areas more cheaply. The London-based company specialises in Africa and last year signed a ten-year telecom tower outsourcing agreement with Vodafone Ghana. CE Alan Harper says Eaton Towers expects to raise significant new debt on the back of the funding from Capital International Private Equity Funds, which has invested $3-billion in emerging markets companies. "Their backing, combined with our management team's expertise in Africa and telecoms management, will give further momentum to our efforts to become a major independent provider of shared tower facilities across Africa," he says. Africa, where only 39% of people own a mobile phone, represents a major growth opportunity. But operators have been reluctant to invest in infrastructure because of the population's low spending power.