Tender irregularities scuttle Bitou’s big plan for togetherness
A R60 MILLION “coming together” government precinct designed to unite the community of Plettenberg Bay has stalled at the planning stage over the discovery of alleged tender irregularities.
Plans to build an “authority hub” – incorporating a much needed new court building, a police station and municipal offices among other premises for government bureaus – came to a sudden halt after the Bitou municipality asked the Western Cape High Court to set aside the contracts awarded for the project by the town council’s tender adjudication committee.
The project, dubbed Coming Together, is earmarked for development on a 2.5 hectare property in Ladywood, chosen for its location between Plettenberg Bay, Kwanokuthula and New Horizons.
Alleged irregularities uncovered in Bitou’s investigation into the two-step tender process included that the Pretoria- based company awarded the lion’s share of the planning contracts – worth a further R6 million – should have been eliminated as a candidate in the first round because it did not meet the functionality criteria.
The full R66m for the project was to have come in the form of a grant from the National Treasury, but the money is being withheld pending the outcome of the court application.
An affidavit submitted to the court by acting municipal manager Duppie du Plessis said the tender process was “fundamentally flawed”.
Du Plessis said the municipality’s bid evaluation committee, staffed by a number of municipal department heads, made a “highly irregular” request inviting some bidders to improve their initial proposals “on account of their failure to submit the relevant information required for functionality evaluation”.
These bidders, some of whom eventually won con- tracts, were unfairly allowed an opportunity “to amend and supplement their initial, defective bids (with)… additional information” after the closing date of the tender.
“By doing so the bid evaluating committee evaluated bids that did not qualify,” Du Plessis said, pointing out that the action had prejudiced the other bidders who had submitted properly completed applications.
Furthermore, the majority of the members of the evaluation committee present at the meeting at which the successful bidders were determined had not participated fully in the committee’s deliberations.
Non-attendance by a significant number of committee members in the bid evaluation suggested that they could not have properly applied their minds to the process, Du Plessis said.
He said a Bitou official was instructed to amend the bid adjudication spreadsheet to include, for consideration, the bids which should have been eliminated in the first round, “notwithstanding that such bidders were not eligible to proceed to the next stage of evaluation”.
All told, the process did not comply with the Municipal Finance Management Act, the municipality’s supply chain management regulations nor the tender specifications, Du Plessis said.
His affidavit notes that the tender evaluation process was carried out and the tenders awarded while Bitou was still under ANC control, and shortly before a Da/cope coalition won a majority on council in the municipal elections held in May.
Only one of the nine bidders named as respondents has so far given notice that it will oppose the municipality’s application and has been given until January 25 to file a response.
The case has been set down for the Western Cape High Court on March 22. – Garden Route Media