Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall Developer Jay Singh tells inquiry he appointed Contractors on Verbal Agreements

MARCH 3, 2015

Thongathi contractor Jay Singh, the owner of Gralio Precast behind the doomed Mall, told the Thongathi (Tongaat) Mall Structural Commission of Inquiry today that contractors working on the project were hired on verbal agreements.

Cross-examined by the Commission Presiding Officer, Phumudzo Maphaha,  Singh told the inquiry that he had full confidence in the ability of people working in the project, especially the foreman Ronnie Pillay and engineer, Andre Ballack.

Maphaha asked Singh why there were no legal appointment documents on the people working on site to ascertain the level of their competency? Singh said a degree and formal qualifications were no guarantee for competency! He said he appointed people based on their experience. 

When asked about health and safety standards on site, Singh told the Commission that he had used the services of a labour consultant to take care of labour matters. He further told the Commission that he was at one stage hospitalised for a month, and did not delegate his authority, because he had confidence of capabilities of people on site. 

Although Singh had failed to supply the Commission with a risk assessment document, more than a year after it was requested, he promised to furnish the Commission with one. 

The Commissioner accused Singh of contravening Construction Regulations, as he had an obligation to inform the Department of Labour's Provincial Director on the start of such a massive project, something he failed to do. Maphaha also lamented the number of blank spaces in correspondent documents in the Commission's possession on the project that were not signed by the contractor (Singh). 

 Singh said the risk of the collapse of the Mall should be shared between the foreman and the engineer. He said his role as the contractor in the project, "was not critical". 

The Commission continues tomorrow (4 March) with further cross-examination of Singh. The Thongathi Commission of Inquiry is held at the North Coast Town’s Municipality offices. The Inquiry starts daily at 9am.

The Thongathi Mall Structural Commission of Inquiry was appointed following the collapse of the Mall in 2013 that led to the death of two workers and injury to 29. 

The Section 32 hearing, was instituted by the Department of Labour in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act - to gather evidence against parties whose negligence resulted in occupational injuries and death of workers.