Cape Town officials say the International Convention Centre expansion project will go ahead despite warnings of legal action.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre is ready to begin the next phase in its highly contested expansion plans in July, but claims of irregularities in the process refuse to die down.
“If they try to turn a sod, we will try to interdict them in court,” said construction project manager Steven Lukey. “We will probably do a class action.”
It has been an arduous battle for Lukey, who said city officials were withholding the findings of a forensic investigation into his complaints. “The obvious question is: Why is this being hidden?” asked Lukey.
The Cape Town International Centre Company (Convenco) is jointly owned by the Democratic Alliance-led City of Cape Town (which holds a 50.2% stake in the firm), the Western Cape provincial government (25.1%), and SunWest International (24.7%).
Lukey brought a thick file of documents to a meeting with the Mail & Guardian this week. “The development and expansion of the foreshore is something that we initiated, and we would love to see this happen,” he explained. “This is the very reason why we started the Northern Foreshore Joint Venture. What is not right is that various parties have contravened the law and have taken advantage of our work and intellectual property.”
The public protector investigated the land transaction between the City of Cape Town and media company Naspers after a complaint from the ANC, and found the transaction was “above board and ... generally of benefit to the public”.
But protector Thuli Madonsela cited “maladministration” by the city in certain instances: officials had not secured a height restriction agreement and had not taken charge of concluding the sale.
Lukey’s complaints and those of a tenderer on the project, architect Greg Truen, were considered by the protector to be “ancillary matters” and her office recommended that the city launch a forensic investigation into their complaints, which should be released to the complainants.
The city said that, although the convention centre was a municipal entity, it had to allow the centre’s directors and chief executive to fulfil their responsibilities. “It is the responsibility of the board to deal with the findings and recommendations contained in the forensic report, which it has done,” it said, without attributing its comments to any city official.
But, in a recent newspaper comment piece, the convention centre’s chairperson Gary Fisher pointed out that the city forensic services department had conducted two investigations, one relating to Lukey’s complaints and the other to Truen’s complaints. The board had been provided with a copy of the forensic investigation into Truen’s complaints, but not Lukey’s claims, Fisher wrote.
The winning architectural team appointed to work on the more than R700-million project is Piet Bakker of Stauch Vorster Architects, Mokena Makeka of Makeka Design Lab and Anya van der Merwe of Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects.
Truen said he believed the tender process was both “irregular and unlawful”. “The city’s own forensic unit found the tender was irregular and recommended its cancellation. Convenco has refused to do so, and the city is refusing to compel them to do so. Somewhat tellingly, the city is also refusing to release the forensic report to us, in contravention of the public protector’s instruction for them to do so.”
The tender had gone to the tenderer with the lowest score, which went against the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), Truen claimed.
He alleged the tender was awarded to a party that should have been disqualified, according to the MFMA rules. This was because the party had been previously employed by Convenco and had prepared a design for the Naspers site, and this work was used to create the tender document.
The convention centre board told the M&G that it had appointed Target Projects as its new project managers. “As per supply-chain management regulations, the Convenco management drew up the specifications to avoid any unfair advantages,” it stated.
Now the convention centre expansion – including additional exhibition space and a proposed tower – is finally on track, the board insisted, and construction is scheduled to start in July 2014.