R38 million call centre “shack” at risk of demolition

The controversial call centre “shack” built in the North West using a tender of over R38 million is now at risk of being demolished.

According to the City Press, the Ruth Mompati district municipality had applied for permission to build the call centre building but did not receive it from the Naledi local municipality.

Instead, the City Press reports that the application — which was lodged in March 2022 — was rejected for noncompliance.

The structure was built anyway, and as a result, Naledi municipal manager Modisenyane Segapo has threatened to go to court to get the structure demolished.

Segapo claims the structure fails to abide by local municipal laws and national building requirements.

For example, he said the land was not rezoned appropriately, and is therefore unsuitable for a cell centre.

According to Segapo, the land is currently zoned as ‘residential 1’ — meaning it can only be used for dwelling purposes.

Furthermore, Segapo said that national regulations were not met, as toilets for disabled people did not meet the correct requirements.

“You have proceeded with building works and completed the erection of said building,” said Segapo.

“Please supply us with reasons for our not seeking appropriate relief from an appropriate court of law.”

Call centre controversy

The City Press reported on the project last week, highlighting that a small prefabricated building had been built with a tender of R38.753 million to be used as a call centre.

Ruth Mompati municipal manager Itumeleng Jonas hit back at the report on SAfm, claiming that the R38 million was the total value to build, operate, and maintain the call centre over three years, as well as pay all call centre staff.

He added that this figure did not include the price of the temporary building, which had been built quickly to house workers who could not fit into the old call centre.

He claimed the building was received for “free” but was itemised on the municipality books at R700,000 for accounting and insurance purposes.

Exorbitant monthly costs

The report also claimed that the municipality was paying the following monthly invoiced amounts for hardware and connectivity:

  • R258,974 for eight Lenovo desktops;
  • R524,435 for car radios in the emergency vehicles;
  • R324,566 for handheld walkie-talkies;
  • R3,758 for eight mice;
  • R6,800 for eight keyboards;
  • R36,952 for eight “Logic Pro” headphones;
  • R16,253 for one Huawei Router; and
  • R24,910 for fibre and Internet

Jonas responded by saying that these costs include the insurance of the assets.

“If the asset is broken down, they replace that asset for ‘free’ for the municipality,” Jones said.

MyBroadband investigated City Press’s images showing the inside of the call centre and found that at least one of the Lenovo desktops appeared to be a decade-old all-in-one computer called the ThinkCentre M71z.

One of the Lenovo computers used in the call centre.

This model is no longer on sale, but the slightly newer M73z is available from Computer Emporium for R4,995.

The municipality is paying about R32,372 for its machine, suggesting an additional R27,377 is being paid for maintenance and insurance.

However, Jones alleged that when the municipality checked the market price of the machine, it was R15,000 to R25,000.

Even a premium of R7,372 for maintenance and insurance, based on the upper end of that estimation, is high.

Now read: Prisoners allowed computers in their cells in South Africa, rules Supreme Court

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R38 million call centre “shack” at risk of demolition