Ex-ANC priest threatens state over R1bn tender awarded to rival

A company in which erstwhile ANC chaplain-general Rev Vukile Mehana is an executive chairman is demanding that the department of communications and digital technologies (DCDT) withdraw a R1-billion tender awarded to its competitors or face legal action.

The scramble is over a contract to provide Local Area Network (LAN) services to all public schools in the Western Cape for a period of five years.

In a hard-hitting letter to minister Mondli Gungubele’s department, which we have seen, Mehana cries foul over the process followed to award the contract to Blue Network Consortium last month instead of his company, Sizwe Africa IT Group.

The politically connected clergyman fingered the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), which handles all government procurement on IT, for failing to inform him why his company’s bid was unsuccessful.

“We have not been furnished with any reasons for our unsuccessful bid nor have we been advised about our rights to object or appeal the decision,” wrote Mehana.

According to him, there were material irregularities in the adjudication and awarding process of the tender, which he says should be investigated if the department does not want to suffer humiliation in a court of law.

Moreover, the priest charged, Sizwe had complied with requirements set out in the tender document and was baffled that it did not get it. In his view the bidding process should be started afresh to ensure fairness to all bidders including Sizwe “due to the material irregularities and discrepancies”.

Some of the “discrepancies”, he said, were contained in an SITA internal audit report conducted last year. In it, out of 10 bidders, three had made it past the bid evaluation committee (BEC) namely Sizwe, the ultimate winners Blue Networks as well as IN2 IT.

However, when internal audit zoomed in, the trio also did not comply and “should have been disqualified and not progress to the next stage”, according to the report, which we have seen.

“The bidders did not comply with the local content obligations as prescribed by PPPFA Regulation 2017 and National Treasury Instruction 5 of 2016/17 for designated sector, electrical cables product, which prescribes a local content target for the designated sector of at least 90%,” says the report.

Sita spokesperson Tlali Tlali dismissed the audit report, saying it was a “draft report” that cannot be relied on because the final report released in February was materially different.

“The draft report by the auditors had miscalculated the local content portion of these bidders. Those bidders indicated both percentages for local content, in terms of telecommunications and electrical cables, which they complied with a minimum threshold of 90%, and the overall local content ranging from 43% to 59% amongst all these three bidders, of which there was no minimum threshold.

“So, in essence, those bidders met the local content requirements hence they were not disqualified,” said Tlali.

“Equal opportunity was provided to all bidders and confirmed during the briefing session, and yet the responses from the bidders differed: some took advantage of the process while others elected not to do so – hence competitiveness is confirmed.

“There was no restriction placed on bidders to maintain similar pricing if an alternate solution is offered.

“For that reason, there was no uncompetitiveness.

“Blue Networks Consortium disclosed two options with all the items in their bid proposal including two Annexes Cs for local content for each solution. Both solutions were evaluated independently and there was no reason to disqualify them.”

This is in contrast to the audit report which states firmly that “Blue Networks should have been disqualified and should have not been evaluated on further stages”.

The company’s pricing was also found wanting after submitting two options of R870-million and R925-million. For this, the price evaluation committee was thrown under the bus for failing to establish which of the two options must be used for evaluation purposes.

But Mehana believes his company was prejudiced and demands intervention from the department.

Should the intervention not be forthcoming, he said, Sizwe will be left with no choice but to rush to the high court to seek an order declaring the awarding of the tender null and void.

Department spokesperson Nonceba Mhlauli said Sita had received Mehana’s letter and was dealing with the matter.

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