Ministry may give little guy the boot

2012-05-19 14:58

Tender could go to three ‘connected’ companies

The Mpumalanga provincial government may dump more than 60 emerging companies that benefit from the R474.5 million-a-year schools feeding scheme in favour of three entities.

Concerned service providers of the Mpumalanga Schools Nutrition Programme have told City Press that they feared the education department in the province planned to follow a model that was adopted by the public works, roads and transport ministry last year as they have been stalling in advertising the new tender since the previous one expired in March.

If the 67 company owners’ suspicions are confirmed, the province would have taken nearly R1 billion worth of business from emerging companies in two sectors in a space of six months.

The education ministry has been renewing the emerging companies’ contracts on a month-to-month basis.

The concerned companies declined to be mentioned in fear of jeopardising their livelihoods.

A Nelspruit-based businesswoman said: “It is now an open secret that we’ll be replaced by three companies of politically connected individuals in the Gert Sibande, Ehlanzeni and Nkangala regions.

That explains why the department has been stalling until this time to advertise the tender.”

Another service provider said: “These rumours have been getting momentum since last year.

If they weren’t true, the department could have finished the process of ­appointing companies since a new financial year has already begun.”

Last year, the ministry of public works, roads and transport withdrew more than 300 scholar transport operators in the Gert Sibande and Ehlanzeni North regions, and replaced them with two companies in the R500 million business.

This was after Premier David Mabuza appointed a commission of inquiry, which reportedly uncovered massive corruption in the system implicating civil servants.

However, Jasper Zwane, provincial education spokesperson, said no improprieties had been detected in the nutrition programme.

It feeds 835 444 pupils in the most impoverished communities.

He said there were “administrative matters” that his department was looking into and did not confirm nor deny that the department intended to adopt the public works, roads and transport model of getting one company per region.

“Specifications will be clarified when the tender is issued,” was all Zwane could say.

Lebona Mosia, spokesperson for the provincial government, could not clarify if there was, perhaps, a policy shift set to exclude small businesses in the province.

Mosia was quick to say that Jacob Rabodila, the province’s director-general and the right person to deal with the matter, was not available.

The scholar transport tender was given to Habana Trading (Pty) Limited in the Gert Sibande region and Tshawe Infrastructure ­Technologies in Ehlanzeni North.

This business deal left small ­operators with the option of acting as subcontractors to the two ­companies.

Habana Trading has, however, been struggling to pay operators on a regular basis since November and owes them about R80 million.

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