Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane has said service providers for the 2014 African Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Games would be paid this year after the finalisation of a forensic audit that was ordered by Cabinet.
Service providers are owed as much as $1.5 million and some have closed shop, while those still operating have hit hard times and are facing litigation for failing to repay loans they took to use in anticipation of a good pay day after the Games.
Hlongwane said the audit will ensure that they pay only for services rendered.
“The audit report was ordered on the basis of suspicions in terms of charges we received. I tell you that $24 million was channelled to Bulawayo as part of the preparations, but no new structure was built. People were just renovating what already existed and you expect us to just pay. I am a responsible minister and would not do that. However, once the audit report is done and you provided a service, trust me I will pay. In fact, we want to extinguish this debt this year,” said Hlongwane.
However, suppliers said while they appreciated the Government’s position to carry out a forensic audit, it was the time it has taken to conduct the exercise that was worrying.
“If people overcharged for their services and did a shoddy job that must not affect all of us. We are now living paupers’ lives yet we provided good service to the Government and we now ask ourselves whether it was a sin to heed the call to come on board. We are worse off than we were before these Games came to Bulawayo, yet it was supposed to be the other way round. A number of people have lost their jobs because we cannot afford paying their salaries anymore,” said a representative of the service providers.
Hlongwane also refuted claims that Harare-based service providers had been paid, saying Government does not discriminate on the basis of geographical location.
“I can confidently tell you that no company from Harare was paid, but once the forensic audit is done, hopefully by March we will then start paying,” he said.
Sources said arrests could not be ruled out once the forensic audit is out, as it emerged that some people connived to fleece the Government by providing poor or non-existent services.
A tour of the various facilities in Bulawayo provides proof of poor workmanship, as some equipment is already worn out. Grass is sprouting out on the White City Stadium netball courts and the Bulawayo City Pool’s reticulation system is not working and the pool cannot be heated.