NINE unemployed people who found work in a government job-creation scheme have been caught sleeping the day away – instead of cleaning Port Alfred beaches.
On Monday morning, the Working for the Coast (WFTC) team was photographed sleeping under bushes – on blankets, with their fancy sponsored windbreakers covering their heads – near West Beach for more than three hours.
The investigation comes after several complaints that some of the more than 100 workers involved in the R8.5-million, two-year-long expanded public works programme (EPWP) from Keiskamma to Kenton-on-Sea were slacking off.
Irate Bathurst pensioner Herman Breetzke, who spends his days on the Port Alfred beachfront, said he had seen the workers over the past 18 months filling their bags from half-empty bins and disappearing into the dunes for hours on end.
"I support job creation and clean beaches, but it is a bit ridiculous when people who are paid to clean, walk past rubbish and do not pick it up.” He said he had watched the workers regularly disappear into the dunes before 10am and emerge after 3pm.
"It is all a ridiculous waste of money,” Breetzke said. The workers were photographed sleeping in the bushes over a period of several hours. One worker claimed they were having a tea break and lunch when they were photographed sleeping.
MBB Consulting Services director Pravesh Nosib, who runs the EPWP Keiskamma to Kenton project on behalf of the Environmental Affairs Department, said they had received complaints in the past about the workers' performance.
He said MBB had even attended a meeting with ratepayers and municipal officials to discuss allegations that workers were arriving late and sleeping on duty.
Several letters of complaint about workers slacking on the job have been published in Eastern Cape newspapers in recent years.
MBB project manager Mandisi Stuma said yesterday each team had supervisors. He said it was difficult for him to personally monitor 12 sites and 108 workers between Kasouga and Hamburg.
Provincial project manager Oscar Ntombini promised to investigate.
Public Works spokesman Sisanda George said the department was aware of the problem.
"At community meetings, the MEC has alluded to this growing problem and we have identified the need for supervision.”
The department has arranged that when it pilots the roads enterprise development programme next month, Level 1 contractors and facilitators will work as supervisors.
Rhodes University-based Public Service Accountability Monitor environmental expert Nicholas Scarr said the WFTC programme in the Eastern Cape had had numerous complaints since its inception.
"These raise fundamental questions about the programme's value in a wider coastal management context, and about whether it represents effective use of financial, human and other resources,” he said.