Education dept reviews ‘irregular’ R1.4 billion school nutrition tenders

2014-06-26 10:31

Mpumalanga’s education department has begun reviewing its R1.4 billion school nutrition programme tenders in line with a court order, but it is not clear if it will meet the court’s deadline, which is today.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside the appointment of 17 service providers on May 26 and ordered the department to review the tenders after unsuccessful bidders complained of irregularities.

School nutrition is one of the most lucrative tenders and benefits 882 801 primary and high school pupils from poor families.

Department spokesperson Jasper Zwane did not, however, concede outright that the department flouted procurement procedures.

“[The] re-evaluation processes have already commenced and we remain committed in ensuring that all our administrative processes should be above board, transparent and free from any irregularities and it is for that reason that all efforts are made to comply with the court order,” Zwane said.

He could not say whether the department would be able to meet the court’s deadline, which is today.

“The process to implement the order has commenced and every effort is made by the department to adhere to the deadline given,” Zwane said.

The irregularities, which prompted the court to order a review, were that:

» 11 of the 17 companies awarded the tenders were not registered with the department of labour, according to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, as per criteria set in the tender documents;

» The chairperson of the bid adjudication committee allowed successful bidders to submit letters of good standing with the Compensation Commissioner three months after they were appointed;

» Fourteen more companies submitted their bids after the tender, contested by 1 117 companies, was closed;

» One successful bidder, Ethel Shongwe of Mbetse Ladies (Pty) Ltd, set up the company one month before the closing date for bid submissions – proving that the company neither had the experience nor infrastructure required to do the job;

» Shongwe – a former provincial tender board official, also submitted another bid using her other company, Mabeke Women (Pty) Ltd, but was not disqualified for submitting two bids;

» Another successful bidder, Mathata and Given Trading CC, was deregistered and its owner, Cedric Mathata Mashile, submitted three bids as part of a joint venture – which was grounds for disqualification;

» Four other successful bidders – Triponza Trading 804 CC, Daphm Trading CC, Gugulezwe Lethu Logistics and Judies Catering Service CC – quoted prices 400% more than the average tender amount but were not disqualified.

The court said the bid committee officials’ conduct was “abhorrent” and “shocking”.

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