MEC in R10m tender scandal

Molebatsi Bopape. Picture: Themba Makofane
Molebatsi Bopape. Picture: Themba Makofane

Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s administration is set to be hit with its first political controversy after allegations that one of his MECs interfered in the awarding of a R10 million tender.

Social development MEC Molebatsi Bopape, who was quietly moved from her sports and recreation portfolio two weeks ago, has been accused by her former staff of improperly interfering in the awarding of tenders in the department.

Concerned staff have compiled a 200-page dossier containing complaints against Bopape, listing several tenders that were allegedly awarded irregularly as a result of the influence of political office bearers.

A number of celebrities and well-known personalities who were awarded contracts by the department are mentioned. Copies of the document were sent to the offices of Makhura and Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said Makhura was aware of the allegations against Bopape when he moved her from sports to social development.

The main complaint concerns the alleged interference by Bopape and her chief of staff, Shane Maja, in the awarding of a R10 million tender to guard government properties.

But Bopape and departmental spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana said they had no knowledge of the claims of concerned staff members. Bopape was accused of becoming involved in the awarding of a security tender. Maja refused to comment and referred City Press to Ntlokwana.

However, City Press has seen a trail of emails and other internal documents in which Bopape and Maja question a tender award and issue instructions for a second company to be allocated part of the tender.

The tender in question was advertised and closed in March last year. The department received up to 106 bids. In June, the bid committee recommended Palesa and Associates as the winning bidder and the decision was signed off by the departmental acquisition council. But Bopape instructed head of department Namhla Siqaza to overrule the bid committee and the council.

City Press has in its possession a copy of an internal department memorandum Bopape wrote to Siqaza – who is serving a suspension – stating that her “instruction” to have a security-services tender “stopped” was ignored.

In another exchange of emails, Bopape and Maja disagree with the final recommendations of the tender committee and insist that the contract be split between the winning bidder, Palesa and Associates, and the runner-up, Born to Protect Security Services.

“I expect you to address this matter with circumspect [sic],” Bopape instructed Siqaza and other officials.

“This will afford us time to address this matter, bearing in my [sic] the mandate of the ANC,” she said.

Her comments came after Maja questioned the bid evaluation committee’s decision to appoint Palesa and Associates to guard all sites: the head office, clusters and hubs.

In emails Maja said the committee’s decision undermined President Jacob Zuma and Makhura’s “marching orders”.

He said it “fails to address the pertinent radical economic factor emphasised by the fifth administration”.

He proposed that the tender be placed on hold until Bopape was informed of all “procurement processes”.

Bopape agreed, saying the suggestion was “reasonable and needs it [sic] to be responded to in a rational and responsible manner”.

On October 1, Siqaza – allegedly under pressure from her political principals – overruled the bid committee’s decision and recommended that Born to Protect also be awarded a portion of the tender. One company would be awarded the head office contract and the other would get the contract for clusters and hubs. The department has clusters in Sedibeng, West Rand, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Bid committee chairperson Thembekile Molefe later challenged Siqaza’s decision, saying the department would spend more than R2 million more if it did not appoint a single service provider.

Molefe recommended that Siqaza “reconsider her decision to award this tender to two service providers [because] it is not cost-effective for the department”.

Head of Born to Protect Philip Mapalakanye said this week that his company was among the two that had won the security contract. He said he had not been paid, however, for up to seven months.

According to another document in City Press’ possession, Born to Protect billed the department R54 000 for services rendered on February 20 and March 20 2015.

Mapalakanye denied any wrongdoing regarding the procurement of the tender.

Referring to the reshuffle, Masebe said it would have been informed by several considerations in terms of the effective running of government.

Masebe said Makhura had also received the claims of improper conduct against Siqaza, which had led to her suspension. He said Makhura had appointed an intervention team to probe the breakdown of relations between the executive and the administrators. The outcomes of that investigation – including where the evidence of improper conduct was revealed – would determine his next step.

In an emailed response sent by the new chief of staff, Bopape told City Press she was never involved in procurement issues except when matters had been brought to her attention as the political head.

“She strongly believes this story intends to damage her good reputation and her stance on fighting corruption,” reads the email.

“However, she further believes if the paper and yourself are adamant that there is a story to write without verified facts, she reserves her right to take legal action against the paper and yourself.”

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