North West road tender fraught with irregularities

Twenty-five irregularities have been found in the awarding of a R93.5-million road rehabilitation tender, North West Premier Thandi Modise said on Thursday, vindicating a Mail & Guardian report into the matter.

“Down Touch [Investments] should have been eliminated from the tender for non-compliance with tender rules set by the department,” she said in a slamming statement.

It was also found that other appropriate tenders were incorrectly excluded or eliminated.

The Mail & Guardian reported in October that Modise had found herself at the centre of the row and that her intervention in the matter was questioned by some role players. But she denied this at the time and accused this newspaper of tarnishing her image.

On Friday however, Modise publicly slammed the tender after weeks of internal manoeuvres in the department regarding the fraught tender.
Among the damning findings released was:

  • The favoured company, Down Touch Investments, was chosen despite handing in incomplete documents

  • Down Touch Investments missed the deadline for the submission of its tender, which was then incorrectly extended

  • This extension was not communicated to other bidding companies

Modise said the department would consider a termination of the contract with the company based on the findings of the report.

Construction work on the P34/2 Koster and Lichtenburg roads was suspended at the start of October when another bidder Globul Roads—which has former provincial education minister Pitso Tolo as its chief executive—challenged the tender allocation on the basis that it was the more favourable candidate.

Modise halted the project and suspended acting provincial roads and transport department head Sandile Mbanjwa.

He remained on suspension pending a full investigation into whether he illegally awarded the tender.

The losing bid
In October the Mafikeng High Court dismissed an urgent application by Down Touch Investments, who sought a court interdict to stop Modise from “interfering” in the bitter battle for the contract, saying she was correct to intervene in the row because she’s the head of the provincial government.

Modise ordered a re-evaluation of the tender earlier in October and issued an instruction for work on the road between to be suspended while the provincial government investigated alleged irregularities in the awarding of the tender.

Globul Roads approached the same court at the beginning of this month with an urgent application to stop work on the road, but was struck off the roll on the grounds that it was not urgent.

Globul Roads was of the view that its bid deserved to be the winner because it was R18-million cheaper than that of Down Touch Investments and it alleged that unfair processes could have resulted in the company losing the tender.

“When allegations of serious impropriety are made against a provincial department [and] the provincial administration or North West Government, she [Modise] has material interest as head of the executive. This is unfortunately misconstrued by Down Touch Investment and its lawyers to be interference,” said Kgwele.

He added that an investigation ordered by Modise is expected to provide clarity on the lawful nature of the contract awarding process and had nothing to do with the favouring of one service provider over the other.

Modise was accused of favouring Globul Roads because of her friendship with Tolo. Both denied being friends in the beginning of October.—Sapa, Staff Reporter

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