/ 24 May 2010

LOC ‘too busy’ for M&G court battle

Loc 'too Busy' For M&g Court Battle

The local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2010 Fifa World Cup is “too busy organising the World Cup” to provide the Mail & Guardian with copies of tender documents.

The LOC’s advocate Alfred Cockrell told the South Gauteng High Court on Monday that even if the court grants the M&G access to copies of all tender documents relating to the tournament, it would be “impossible” to provide the paper with copies three weeks before the tournament kicks off.

Acting judge Les Morison reserved judgment and said he would attempt to rule as soon as possible “due to the urgency of the matter”.

The opening game of the tournament is on June 11.

Cockrell argued the M&G should not know which service providers benefited from the LOC through South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup and last year’s curtain raiser Confederations Cup tournament.

The LOC contends it is a private body and should not comply with the requirements of transparency laid down in public procurement legislation.

Earlier in the day, advocate Geoff Budlender SC argued for the M&G that it was the public’s right to know how the LOC spent its money, even if its budget only partially came from government.

Cockrell argued Fifa was essentially a “Swiss club” and that the hosting agreement was between Fifa and the South African Football Association (Safa), and not the South African government.

“Governments don’t organise football tournaments, they build railways and roads,” said Cockrell.

He argued that even if the LOC exercised certain public powers, awarding tenders was not one of them. The LOC, according to him, does not act in terms of legislation and is not bound by government’s procurement laws.

Cockrell said there was other ways for the M&G to obtain documents relating to World Cup tenders, to which Budlender replied the M&G was not “litigating for fun”. According to Budlender the M&G did precisely that and ran into a brick wall.

“It shows the LOC’s attitude,” he added.

In his various responses to the M&G‘s questions on matters of procurement, the LOC’s spokesperson Rich Mkhondo flatly refused to divulge any information, saying it was against the committee’s policy.

Commenting on Mkhondo’s response to the M&G, Morison said it was “pure spin”.

“In the end the fundamental question stay, with all its obligations, can anyone really say the LOC is performing private functions with a straight face?” asked Budlender.

Budlender, advocate Kate Hofmeyr and attorney Dario Milo of Webber Wentzel represented the M&G while Cockrell and attorney Sue Hayes acted for the LOC.