Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla visited the newly refurbished Estcourt Correctional Centre on Friday, 6 July 2018. The purpose of his visit was to ascertain progress of the renovations that are to be completed by 15 August 2018. The deputy minister spent the morning of his visit in a briefing session with senior managers of DCS and the Department of Public Works (DPW). Later he did a walk about around the facility.
It has been 17 years since the Estcourt project commenced in 2001. The previous correctional facility was built in 1966 and was made of corrugated iron. In 2012 the structure was demolished and the centre was officially closed. According to the contract with DPW, the construction of the new brick facility should have been completed within 36 months.
Design changes, sight clearance delays, poor planning, heritage issues and high cost escalations were some of the reasons given by Director Construction Project Management Thabo Kgobane that led to the delay in completing the project. He said the original contract was valued at R209 million and it escalated to over R333 million, exceeding the authorized budget by 20%. DPW confirmed that the project was delayed because it underwent 14 sets of changes to get to a suitable design.
Makwetla was not satisfied with the overall management of the project and urged all role players to address the challenges with urgency. He advised that there should be a joint structure managing the project to avoid long delays that result in the department having different information on what the real problems are. He said the fact that the department does not have a prototype for all sizes of correctional centres is a serious gap and should be closed.
Estcourt Correctional Centre is a modern rehabilitation facility for offenders who are serving sentences longer than 24 months. Glencoe acting Area Commissioner Thembi Buthelezi said offenders will be transferred to Estcourt in phases.
The post establishment of the new facility is 180, which is awaiting approval. Currently there are 76 financed posts for the centre, of which 67 are already filled. The 67 officials are currently deployed in Estcourt Community Corrections and Ladysmith Correctional Centre.
Accommodation for officials will also be on site and a structure of 32 bachelor flats is complete and ready for occupation. The delay by DPW to respond to the request to purchase land nearby for the construction of additional accommodation for officials may result in other officials having to wait longer for accommodation. The site itself could not accommodate all housing for officials.
Mr Kgobane said the department was concerned about the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the local municipality for bulk services of water and sanitation, which has not been finalised. “The past and present experiences on water supply issues is a serious concern and there is lack of activity by DPW in this regard. We have the same problem in Standerton, Sada and Bongweni. We have resorted to using Jojo tanks and building our own reservoirs,” said Kgobane.
The DPW Project Manager Thuthuka Mbhele said there are two reservoirs on site, one for firefighting and the other for back up water storage, enough to supply the centre for 72 hours. “Estcourt has challenges with bulk supply because it is a small town so the water supply problems will be unavoidable from time to time,” he said.
The anticipated time to complete the centre has been moved to September 2018 because of onsite challenges such as the security fence that collapsed. Cabling for computers, telephone lines and the security system is still outstanding.
Chief Operations Officer Mandla Mkhabela also attended the meeting, together with uThukela District Municipality Mayor Siphiwe Mazibuko, DPW Regional Manager Nkosi Vilakazi, ward councillors and community leaders.