Records storage companies fight it out over lucrative Sassa tender

A lucrative South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) tender has pitted South Africa’s leading records storage and management companies The Document Warehouse (TDW) and Metrofile against each other, with the former not willing to let go of a contract it lost to the latter.

TDW, founded in 1992, has grown to be a dominant player in the sector, with sites in all nine provinces throughout South Africa and in Africa.

TDW has purposely built records and information management facilities with the capacity to store 5-million archival boxes of records, which equates to approximately 12-billion documents.

TDW’s contract to store Sassa’s documents is set to lapse at the end of this month.

Following a tender process, the new tender was awarded to Metrofile.

However, TDW took umbrage at this and approached the Johannesburg High Court on an urgent basis seeking to interdict Metrofile’s contract with Sassa until its review of the tender is heard and decided on.

TDW has held the tender for the past seven years.

The main feature of the tender is the transportation, offsite storage maintenance, retrieval services and support services of files. The number of beneficiary records in the nine regions for which Sassa is responsible for 60.5-million by March 31.

One of the requirements of the tender is that the storage facilities must be located in all of the nine regions within 30km of the current Sassa Records Management Centres and that no interim storage space is permitted, and the files must be moved to a permanent storage area from the outset.

TDW told the court that Sassa should have declared Metrofile’s bid as invalid and non-compliant with the tender.

At the heart of TDW’s argument is that some of the lease agreements Metrofile has in several provinces were not compliant with the requirement not to store the sensitive documents in temporary storage.

Sassa challenged the urgency of the matter and argued that because TDW’s pricing was R62.5-million more than Metrofile’s pricing, awarding the tender would have resulted in irregular or unauthorised and/or fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Judge Sulet Potterill ruled in TDW’s favour and said it will suffer irreparable damage if the interdict is not granted.

“It is undisputed that TDW has 60-million Sassa files in its possession. It is true that in four months not all 60-million files will be transported from TDW to Metrofile, but it is also undisputed that TDW can transport 450 boxes of files out of every region every day.

 TDW will have to do so as from 31 November 2023 as it would have no right to retain the storage of those files. In terms of Sassa’s attached withdrawal plan, 4 050 boxes per day can be extracted,” the judge ruled.

“If that is multiplied by 80 days, then half of all the files will be withdrawn in the four months. This is a significant amount totalling close to 50% of all the files at cost to all the parties. I am satisfied that TDW will suffer irreparable harm in transferring the files if the
tender is not set aside.

“Even if TDW is not awarded the tender, it will have to store the files safely, upon return to it, until a new award has been made. I am satisfied that TDW will suffer irreparable harm if the interim interdict is not granted,” reads the judgment.

The JSE-listed Metrofile has a warehousing capacity of 118 000 square metres accross its 71 facilities around the country and neighbouring countries.

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