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Bosasa guns for slice of private prisons tender

Controversial facilities management group Bosasa has already won prison contracts worth about R3-billion, but is now gunning for a slice of the biggest tender ever to be awarded by the correctional services department.

The Mail & Guardian has established that Bosasa is in the running for the multibillion-rand contracts to build and operate four private prisons.

The M&G can also reveal that trade information of a competitor was found in Bosasa’s possession.

Former president Thabo Mbeki announced the building of more private prisons for the first time in 2004. Since then the project has been mired in controversy around costing and a lack of funds in the department’s budget.

However, the department announced in November last year that four consortia were shortlisted to bid for these contracts to build and operate prisons in Paarl, Nigel, Klerksdorp and East London.

Two private prisons are already in operation in Bloemfontein and Louis Trichardt.

The shortlisted consortia include the Umtya Nethunga consortium, consisting of Bosasa, listed constructions company Group Five, American corrections management firm MTC, Rainbow Construction and Motheo Construction.

MTC spokesperson Carl Stuart said the company has never before partnered with Bosasa on a corrections bid. ‘MTC was not involved with the company for any of its previous projects. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for MTC to comment on any investigation that may be under way.”

Group Five and Rainbow said they were not in a position to comment on behalf of the consortium.

Motheo didn’t respond to the M&G‘s questions.

The three other consortia in the running are the Ikhwezi Consortium (led by GSL Global that is currently operating the Bloemfontein facility), South African Custodial Services (that is operating the Louis Trichardt prison) and Siza Bantu (led by the world’s biggest catering and facilities management company Sodexho).

The M&G has in its possession an email from Bosasa’s operations coordinator Angelo Agrizzi sent to his colleagues on February 25 2006 containing trade information from a GSL Global document.

Agrizzi headed the document ‘Highly Confidential”. He then comments on individual paragraphs the document and concludes that Bosasa should ‘implement some of the ideas”.

The M&G presented the document to GSL who confirmed the document ‘are containing and are linked to GSL trade information”.

According to GSL spokesperson Leana Goosen they find it ‘extremely flattering that opposition will go through extreme length to align themselves with GSL’s expertise and best practices”.

The company does not know how Bosasa got hold of its trade information, but confirmed documentation were ‘shared in confidence with some of the officials of our customers, i.e. Mr Patrick Gillingham [former chief financial officer of the department], and it also formed part of tender proposals for the management of youth facilities in various provinces”.

GSL believes the fact that Bosasa was in possession of their trade information may have been to their disadvantage in previous tenders and may influence their ‘competitive participation in future tenders”.

‘Remedial steps to curb any future access to GSL’s trade documentation will have to be considered,” Goosen said.

Gillingham didn’t respond to the M&G‘s queries.

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