Tender tribunal: does KZN need it?

2012-04-16 00:00

WHAT role does the tender appeals tribunal play in delaying infrastructure projects in KwaZulu-Natal, and does the province need the tribunal?

The KZN finance portfolio committee is determined to find out after chairperson Belinda Scott expressed her horror at finding more than 43 projects in the Department of Transport that are apparently being held up by the tribunal.

From a list provided by the department she found that 36 appeals were “awaiting a hearing date”. One went back as far as April 2011. Others, from September to December, were still on record as waiting for hearing dates. Six were awaiting the outcome of a hearing and one was listed as awaiting an appeals resolution.

Scott said there was even one appeal in which the complainant was not even a bidder on the project.

The tribunal regulations were clear on time frames, said Scott: an appeal had to be lodged within five working days and should be finalised within 40 working days or no longer than two months.

In addition, only an aggrieved bidder could lodge an appeal and not any dissatisfied person.

Scott said that she was so shocked at what she had found that she immediately sent the list to Treasury. It responded that every one of the cases had been heard and judged.

“So where is the problem?” she asked.

The finance chairperson said she did not want a situation of “he said, she said,” so she would be calling both the Transport Department and the appeals tribunal to the committee before May to find out what was going on.

“Maybe there are problems with communication between departments or within departments. We need to find out.”

Scott said the aim was to unblock delays in infrastructure delivery in the province.

On Friday advocate Sizwe Mthethwa of the Treasury, who is the department’s link with the appeals tribunal, explained to the finance committee that there had been problems in the past, but he believed the situation was on track.

He believed the departments were at fault.

Mthethwa explained how the tribunal worked and said it was made up mainly of retired members of the legal fraternity. It was previously made up of practising attorneys, but this had caused problems in finding time for sittings.

He said the appellant would ask for reasons why he or she was not successful in getting the bid.

“The reasons cannot come from the board; they don’t have the answers. The reasons have to be provided by the department and that is where the delay occurs.”

Mthethwa said that when the information was with the head office there usually were no problems, but the delays happened when the query had to be sent to regional offices.

Once the hearing was held the chairperson of the tribunal took no longer than four days to give his report. The report went to the MEC for Finance where it was signed off. He said in his experience this process is expedited in time.

The KZN Health Department, which appeared before the finance committee on Friday, said they currently had no projects awaiting appeals.

Scott said the finance committee would be debating various options on the issue. One was to get cabinet to table a memo to get departments to give their responses on time. Another was to look at the entire appeals process.

She said KZN was the only province with an appeals tribunal procedure. She questioned whether the process encouraged frivolous or fallacious appeals. Was there still a need for a tribunal and why could KZN not do the same as other provinces?

“If bidders have grievances they go to the courts. We need to review and discuss this entire matter,” Scott said.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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