Mjwara ‘to get PMB tender’

2008-06-08 00:00

DR Jabulani Mjwara, whose tenure as head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environment Affairs (DAEA) is under investigation for alleged maladministration and financial mismanagement, has emerged as the preferred bidder for a R12,8 million Msunduzi Municipality tender to dredge the Camps Drift canal.

Questions are being raised about how a former civil servant — who left one tier of government under a cloud because he allegedly did not do his job properly — is being considered for a tender by another tier of government.

There is also the question of technical expertise, which is a key criterion in the awarding of this contract.

The tender document states: “Tenderers must be widely experienced in dredging contracts of this magnitude and must be able to submit evidence of previous contracts as well as the associated performance levels achieved on these contracts.”

The point system for selection of the tender weighs expertise and price the same — 45 points are allotted to experience and duration to complete the project and 45 points to price, while five points each are for locality and historically disadvantaged individuals or BEE status.

A perusal of the company register shows that Mjwara’s company Planet Waves 399 started business in November 2006. Queries so far have not revealed any construction, earthmoving or dredging jobs that the company may have carried out.

Mjwara resigned as head of DAEA last year, days before facing a disciplinary hearing after an internal audit raised allegations of maladministration.

Funds amounting to more than R100 million could not be accounted for because of alleged poor and non-existent record-keeping.

A forensic investigation was subsequently ordered by the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature. However, this report, although completed, has not been tabled.

Members of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) were told by Finance MEC Dr Zweli Mkhize that the findings form the basis of a broader criminal investigation and could not be divulged.

The awarding of the tender and issue of expertise were raised with Msunduzi Municipality’s head of procurement, Francis Grantham, more than three weeks ago.

Mjwara, who has a doctorate in Botany, is one of two directors of Planet Waves. His co-director is Nontokozo Felicity Mathonsi. In the questions sent to Grantham he was asked if Planet Waves has been awarded the tender and what expertise the company possesses that convinced the municipality they will be able to carry out the work.

Grantham responded: “I am unfortunately not in a position to respond to any of your queries as the award process has not been finalised. I would also caution that you not expose yourself to half-truths by or from other bidders who have not made the grade or met the requirements of the tender or any other person who provides information as this could be construed as interference in the tender process, which at present is not in the public domain and is considered to be confidential.

“Once the contract has been through the award stage and it is finalised (again someone has given you wrong information when they said it has been awarded, it has not) I will be in a position to respond to your questions as it then becomes available for public consumption. Trust that the response is acceptable.”

Since this response, The Witness has learnt that Planet Waves was chosen as the preferred bidder. According to experts, this means that the municipality will negotiate with the company on price and aspects of the work. If agreement is reached, the tender is awarded.

The other bidders will also be notified that they have been unsuccessful and will be told who the preferred bidder is. It is possible for them to formally object, however, a deposit has to be placed, in this instance an amount of R50 000, and bidders are often reluctant to object because if they lose their case, they forfeit their deposit.

More than three weeks after receiving Grantham’s response The Witness contacted him last week — four months after the tender was advertised and publicly opened — to find out if it had been awarded. No response was received by the time of going to press.

When contacted, Mjwara said he is a private citizen and asked to be left alone. He refused to confirm or deny any links with the tender and said he had nothing to say to The Witness.

nalini@witness.co.za

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