The costs related to the controversial purchase of police dogs by eThekwini municipality could end up as high as R3 million, if the tender goes ahead.
Highly placed officials at the municipality revealed on Wednesday that the city stands to incur additional costs for the training of police officers as dog handlers by state arms manufacturer Denel.
The 12-week training alone would cost the city an additional R500 000 on top of the R1.2m awarded for the purchase and transportation of the 20 dogs.
However, accommodation for the 20 officers is not included in the deal and rough estimates reveal that the accommodation costs could add another R1m to the total. This means that the total figure would rise to about R2.7m.
“It seems like the people who are behind this tender procured the dogs, but forgot training and later thought about training and forgot about accommodation. It is a complete circus,” said one official.
He said most of the training is currently done by the SAPS and this saved costs.
“We are governed by the SAPS Act and therefore we do training with them. On rare occasions when we have to go up to Pretoria we do not pay for accommodation as we sleep at the SAPS college residence. This, therefore, does not make sense,” he said.
The trainee handlers, selected from within the Metro Police ranks, were due to leave town on Monday this week but that was cancelled.
Later it emerged that they were due to leave for the training again this weekend but it was not clear whether this would go ahead as planned.
Steve Middleton, the deputy head of Metro Police responsible for operations, said: “I am not aware of the dogs or any training because I have been completely sidelined.”
Mayoral spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said both the mayor and her deputy were shocked by this and had asked for reports from officials in the relevant departments.
Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer said she was shocked at how the procurement happened without the knowledge of the city’s community safety committee which she chairs, while mayor Zandile Gumede wrote to the head of operations at Metro Police asking for a report on this purchase.
On training, Peer said the committee encourages prudent spending and asked why the training could not be done in Durban to save costs.
Metro Police spokesperson Wiseman Mchunu said he was “not aware of any dogs”. He would not answer any further questions.
According to documents, the dogs, whose breed is unknown, includes 10 patrol dogs each costing R55 000. The other 10 (five explosives sniffer dogs and five drug sniffer dogs) each cost R53 000.
Metro police officers in the K9 unit questioned why the department needs explosives sniffer dogs when that is the competence of the SAPS.
Some said the procurement of the dogs would be a logistical nightmare for the police department, which is without a chief instructor as the previous one retired two months ago.
“Every three months the dogs and their handlers undergo an evaluation. A certificate is then issued for both, but who is going to do that evaluation? There is no instructor,” said one high-ranking Metro officer.
Another said the dogs would need constant retraining.
“To retrain the sniffer dogs you will then need drugs and explosives, something we do not have”.
Officers also raised concerns about the selection of the trainee handlers, with some saying the whole process was not transparent.
Sources claimed the potential trainees had not undergone any pre-screening which includes fitness and medical tests.
There are also questions being raised about the price tag.
“Why are we even paying for dogs when over the years we have had SAPS and the public donating dogs to us? Something is strange here,” said a councillor.
Officers within the K9 unit said they believed the money would have been better spent on buying equipment and cars for the struggling department.