Failed book supplier gets tender
Durban’s Coastal KZN Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College has booksellers fuming after it awarded a contract for the 2017 academic year to the same company that failed to deliver on a R16 million textbook tender last year.
Now a city bookseller who had also made a bid for the tender has written to the college’s management and the department of higher education and training requesting an investigation into the tender process, claiming that Haait Investments, trading as Redwood Stationers and Booksellers, had not met basic criteria stipulated by the college. This included having a walk-in book shop and being a member of the SA Booksellers’ Association. Redwood failed to respond despite several attempts for comment.
In a letter last week, Oriel Buntting of R&L Books asked for clarity about the tender process and how Redwood won it, considering it seemed not to have met the stipulated criteria.
“Last year, students didn’t get books. If this tender had gone to a company that could deliver on time, I would have been happy, but this is not the case as the publishers had not received orders in time,” she said.
Last April, City Press revealed that the textbook tender awarded to Redwood Stationers and Booksellers was being probed by the department, under which Coastal falls, for a series of alleged procurement and placement irregularities.
Coastal is the eighth TVET college campus bedevilled by student and staff protests over alleged corruption and maladministration since 2013. Last year it abandoned its practice of buying books for an estimated 15 000 students directly from publishers and introduced the tender process.
The college council also held its own investigation into the tender and other alleged financial irregularities at the college. Staff at the college, who asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, said there had been no briefing on the outcome of the two investigations.
Buntting argued that at a site meeting, Coastal management had acknowledged that Redwood had failed to deliver on time last year and that students had been given photocopied textbooks. On Thursday, students at Coastal College’s Swinton Road campus and two Umlazi campuses said they had not yet received textbooks.
Principal Sibhanana Ndlovu said the bid process was overseen by council members and three bid committees.
“All due processes were followed and, as a result, the awardee for 2017 was the lowest bidder who has met all the criteria,” Ndlovu claimed.
Phakama Ndunakazi, provincial secretary of the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union, which asked for the original probe last year, said the reawarding of the tender to the same company was “a problem”.
Ndunakazi also confirmed that students had again not received textbooks at the college.
Ndlovu said there had been some delays in getting textbooks to the various campuses because of protests, but argued that campus managers of the institution had reported that 90% of books for 2017 had been delivered.