Smithfield may be a tiny dorp, but it’s strategically located along the N6, half way between the Eastern Cape coast and Gauteng. That means it’s not just townspeople who are dismayed and angry at the pace of work: it’s just as much a problem for the thousands of people who drive through. We are now in the THIRD YEAR of roadworks, this after the original contractor went bankrupt during the first year of the project and the whole thing had to start over. We’re not the only Free State dorp to have problems of this kind. And at least in our case the work appears to be almost at an end – good news for the fragile economy of this frontier town. But what about all the other projects that have had to be aborted, with devastating consequences for the local communities? – And who actually cares anyway? – certainly not the provincial department of police, roads and transport.

Here’s a report from the latest Free State Business Bulletin:

‘The Free State Dept. of Police, Roads and Transport has requested the Provincial Treasury to write off an amount of R414 million allocated earlier to the department, because the latter is not in a position to report on what has happened to this money. In appearing before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), the HOD admitted large-scale corruption and financial mismanagement in the department during the previous financial year, such as the loss of some R2 billion because of tender corruption which led to work terminated on the upgrading of 60 road projects in the province. In addition the department had to pay out R154 million as a result of accident claims due to bad roads.’