Ten­der ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties scut­tle Bi­tou’s big plan for to­geth­er­ness

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NEIL OELOFSE

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

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