Pretoria - The Bombela Consortium has probably overplayed its hand in its Gautrain negotiations.
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane says the province will not pay the extra R1.3bn to have the first phase of the Gautrain ready before the World Cup soccer tournament next year. Contractually the section between the OR Tambo airport and Sandton is supposed to be finished by June 27, but the tournament begins on June 11.
Speaking on SABC2, Mokonyane said that the Gauteng government had not approached Treasury for the additional funds because the province was already asking Treasury for money for roads, housing and social development.
Deputy Minister of Transport Jeremy Cronin says national government supports the Gauteng decision. "It would be unwise to pay so much to gain a couple of weeks while government's coffers are under pressure."
According to information in his possession, Bombela would have been able to meet the earlier date within the current budget, but "had negotiated very aggressively".
"It's a pity that they [Bombela] will not use the World Cup soccer tournament to show off the project; money means more to them than such considerations."
The fact that an outside company - French construction group Bouygues - is one of the main shareholders in Bombela may have something to do with their attitude, declares Cronin.
Bouygues has a 17% stake in the Bombela Concession Company, which has to deliver and operate the rail system for 20 years.
South African construction group Murray & Roberts has a 25% stake. Both have a 45% interest in Bombela Civils Joint Venture, which is building the infrastructure for the R26bn project.
Jerome Govender, the chief executive of the Bombela Concession Company, says making the service available before the World Cup soccer tournament is a complex issue and money is not the only consideration. He confirmed that the current completion date for the first phase is no longer June 27, but October. Penalties generally apply if a contractor completes a project late.
Govender places the blame for the delay mainly on the Gauteng provincial government which, according to him, was late in handing over the construction sites to Bombela.
Sake24 reported earlier that Bouygues and Murray & Roberts had already indicated that profits from the Gautrain project were uncertain. There are claims outstanding which Sake24 understands relate largely to the late handover of the construction site
Sake24's information is that, in a highly complex proposal, Bombela linked these claims to early completion of the first phase.
If the Gauteng government had accepted this proposal in order to have the train service ready before the tournament, it would have committed itself to meeting these demands, which would apparently have been very unfavourable for government.