Tracker disputes Public Protector's finding on 'improper' 21-year tender with SAPS

Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Raymond Morare)
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Raymond Morare)
Raymond Morare

Tracker has disputed Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane's finding that the agreements between Trackers SA and the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the provision of the vehicle-tracking system in vehicles belonging to SAPS, were improper.

"It is unfortunate, and in our view incorrect that the Public Protector suggests that the benefit which Tracker derives from its contract with the SAPS is 'improper'.

"While Tracker is disappointed by the Public Protector's findings, believes those findings to be flawed and contends that its submissions were not properly taken into account, we have no difficulty with the remedial action contained in the report," the vehicle tracking company said in a statement dated January 24, 2020.

This comes after the Public Protector found that the process followed by the SAPS in concluding agreements with Tracker/Tracker Connect for the provision of the vehicle-tracking system in vehicles belonging to SAPS was improper.

"The process followed by the SAPS in concluding the agreements over the past 21 years failed to meet the standards imposed in terms of Section 217 of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act and amounts to improper conduct and maladministration," Mkhwebane said at a briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday.

This investigation emanates from a complaint lodged by Niemesh Singh on August 19, 2013 relating to the "irregular awarding of a contract to Tracker Network Pty (Ltd) by the SAPS".

The complainant alleged that Tracker enjoyed a favourable relationship with the police since a deal was reached in 1995, as police resources were being used by Tracker to track and recover the stolen vehicles of Tracker clients.

This relationship between the two allegedly allowed Tracker to use state resources to fund their organisation, leading to significantly higher profit margins for Tracker as they did not pay for such resources themselves, Singh further alleged.

'Better returns and profits for Tracker'

According to the complainant, the SAPS does not benefit from the relationship as expenses such as fuel and vehicle maintenance are not borne by Tracker.

This led the complainant to believe this was anti-competitive behaviour, prejudicing other tracking companies as Tracker was utilising police resources at no cost. This saw better returns and profits for Tracker, Singh argued.

He further alleged the original agreement was irregularly renewed, and as it approached expiry in June 2013 it was extended for a further three months by the national commissioner at the time to allow for the finalisation of tender processes.

The Public Protector found the claims to be substantiated and found that the conduct of police bosses "amounts to improper conduct as envisaged in Section 182(1) of the Constitution and maladministration as envisaged in section 6(4) of the Public Protector Act, 1994".

The SAPS and Tracker have both noted the Public Protector's final report.

"I can confirm that we have received the report and are currently studying it. If necessary, we will respond at a later stage," police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told News24 on Wednesday.

Tracker, meanwhile, said the Public Protector did not make any findings against the company.

"The Public Protector's findings were made against the backdrop that Tracker has been awarded the contract for the provision of vehicle-tracking technology to the SAPS in a series of open-tender processes over the years," the vehicle tracking company said in a statement released on January 24, 2020.

The company further said it was "considering whether or not to take any action in relation to the report".

Tracker also said there is no finding of corruption or unlawfulness on Tracker's part.

"Tracker is proud of its relationship with the SAPS and the significant impact that our involvement has had, at no cost to the SAPS, in combating vehicle and related crime over the years. 

"We will endeavour to continue to work together with the SAPS in this vital area and intend to participate in the next SAPS tender process," the statement concludes.

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