Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.

Organization: Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBMM) South Africa
Project type : Metro bus purchase
Project name : Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS)
Date : February 2015
Cost :
R2 billion ZAR (approximately $130M USD)

Synopsis :
The purchase of 60 buses at a cost of R100 million (ZAR) has left the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality publicly embarrassed. The buses were purchased in 2009 as part of a program to refresh municipal bus service in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Although the fleet was used during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, they were parked as soon as the tournament was over. Six years down the line, they remain idle and gathering dust.

The bus purchase was part of a larger R2 billion ($130M USD) push to implement a Bus Rapid Transit system in Port Elizabeth. The project started in 2008 but unfortunately, 8 years later, there is still no operational system in place. Reports from Port Elizabeth indicate that flaws in the design process have resulted in bus lanes that are impractical, zebra crossings that obstruct traffic flow and design flaws that represent a danger to users of the system.


Bus Rapid Transit – Port Elizabeth
(source wiki commons)

The busses themselves typify the types of mistakes made. A faulty specification process resulted in the purchase of buses that were too big for the driving lanes. In addition, the failure to identify the need to drop passengers off on “central islands” resulted in the doors ending up on the wrong side of the bus. With funds appropriated by the South African government for the purchase of the buses, the NMBMM failed to ensure that the investment satisfied its intended long-term purpose of provide a more efficient public transport system to Port Elizabethans.

Challenges in the project have also resulted in significant turnover in key resources working on the project. Local news reporters note that from 2008 to 2013 the project has been through five different Engineering companies and four Project Managers. Such turnover compounds the problems in a project as decision-making gets reset each time a new person or organization joins the team.

The challenges the project has encountered also raises serious concerns over the governance process in use.  How could a project go for so long with so much dysfunction?

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Lack of oversight (six years after fact the matter is being pursued); Poor requirements management and a lack of attention to detail (resulting in faulty requirements); and dysfunctional decision-making; Failure to engage stakeholders; High staff turnover levels.


  1. Nelson Mandela Bay buses worth R100m gather dust in ‘failed project’
  3. Bus Crisis in Nelson Mandela Bay
  4. 5 Firms hired and fired in PE bus system process

Contributing editor – Hylton Ferreira