Eleventh-hour signing of crucial Tshwane tender causes ructions in the capital

2019-05-03 07:56
Moeketsi Mosola (File, Netwerk24)

Moeketsi Mosola (File, Netwerk24)

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The Tshwane municipality is once again divided over the awarding of a tender – this time over municipal manager Moeketsi Mosola's awarding of a contract to supply fuel to municipal depots, on the day that the DA tried and failed to remove him.

This comes in the wake of the GladAfrica tender scandal, in which a tender for the management of R12bn's worth of the City's projects was irregularly awarded.

Bid documents seen by News24 seem to indicate that the process was above board - until January 31. But the timing of the award, as well as questions over the regularity of its signing off, have added to an already fractious atmosphere at the municipality.

Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga earlier tried, and failed, to have Mosola removed over his signing off of the GladAfrica tender. A preliminary report by Bowmans found the awarding of the tender to have been irregular, and the Auditor-General found similarly.

Msimanga tried to remove Mosola in November 2018 for a different reason, but the EFF and the ANC used their combined majority to have the issue deferred until January.

Msimanga tried, and failed, again, on January 31.

Not at work?

Mosola signed off on the fuel tender on the same day, while the debate over his fitness for office was under way behind closed doors at the Tshwane City council, and while he was not at work.

Mosola insists that he was not on official leave on January 31. News24 established that he was not at work, and a number of senior municipal staffers said it was well understood that he had delegated his responsibility to the City's COO, James Murphy. But Murphy was a member of the bid adjudication committee which ran the bidding process, so there was a conflict and he could not sign it.

With Mosola not in office, it appeared as though the signing of the fuel tender would have to wait until he returned.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: GladAfrica scandal - Mosola quietly concedes tender was irregular, says official

News24 has seen proof that on January 31, senior officials first insisted that Murphy should be the one to sign the tender, and that Mosola later signed it himself when it became apparent that Murphy could not.

A timeline of events from that day shows that the apparent urgency appears to have occurred to officials in the early afternoon of January 31, as council was preparing to debate Mosola's removal.

The timeline is based on documents, records and minutes of key meetings, as well as records of confidential exchanges from that day.

Coalition politics

The DA has governed Tshwane with the support of the EFF and the smaller opposition parties since 2016 - an election which saw a painful loss for the ANC there. The EFF says it is not in a formal "coalition" with the DA, but it has played kingmaker and the DA cannot govern without its support.

The DA-led coalition government in Tshwane inherited a municipality with a budget deficit, which it turned into a surplus in a year – a claim fact-checked by AfricaCheck and found to be true. Ratings agency Moody's also upgraded the municipality at the end of 2018.

These improvements appear to have done little to improve relations between the DA and the EFF. Confidential council minutes from January 31 obtained by News24 show how the EFF and the ANC turned on Msimanga over Mosola.

January 31

In October last year, Mosola obtained an interim interdict in the Labour Court preventing the release of the preliminary Bowmans report, and stopping the full investigation from going ahead. Full judgment is yet to be handed down.

The EFF and the ANC argued on January 31 that the issue of Mosola's alleged misconduct was therefore sub judice, because the Labour Court issue had not been resolved.

But the Labour Court issue was not part of the motion brought by Msimanga on January 31. Msimanga wanted Mosola taken to task over statements he made after the Labour Court case, attacking Msimanga, the DA and other members of the City's political leadership.

ALSO READ: New Tshwane mayor cancels controversial GladAfrica contract

Despite a legal opinion read into the record that Msimanga's case had nothing to do with the interdicted Bowmans report or the Labour Court, the EFF and the ANC forged ahead with their vote.

Behind the scenes, increasing pressure was being placed on officials to hurry the fuel tender through.

That contract went out to tender in June 2018 and the process was extended a number of times, ultimately until April 2019.

News24 asked Mosola why the rush to sign it on January 31.

Mosola said the tender had to be signed by then because it expired that night. It is not clear why Mosola waited until the last minute to ensure that it was signed off, or why the bid adjudication and evaluation committees only sat to decide the matter earlier that week, including on the previous Saturday.

Asked to explain the rush when the tender had been on the municipality's agenda for more than six months, Mosola said: "Supply chain processes differs in the City and each appointment is dealt with on its merits.(sic)"

Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  moeketsi mosola  |  solly msimanga  |  pretoria
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