Parliament deemed Madiba's bust an 'emergency'

After a change of plan, the bust will now be located between the two pillars of the entrance of the National Assembly. (David Harrison, M&G)

After a change of plan, the bust will now be located between the two pillars of the entrance of the National Assembly. (David Harrison, M&G)

Parliament did not follow the normal procurement processes for the construction of a Madiba bust to be erected in front of the National Assembly as part of the 20 years of democracy celebrations because the statue was deemed "an emergency procedure".

Senior Parliament officials however insist that the process followed in awarding the R2.5-million contract was not flawed as the legislature's supply chain management policy makes provision for a closed procedure to be followed in emergencies.

They also refused to say how Parliament decided to give the contract to Koketso Growth, a company owned by Dali Tambo, son of former ANC president Oliver Tambo. The company was commissioned to create the statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings, which was unveiled in December.

"I don't know about Dali Tambo, or how we arrived at him … because I received a recommendation from the officials in the supply chain process as to the appropriateness of this group headed by Mr Tambo as the appropriate personalities to manufacture and construct the bust, said Michael Coetzee, the secretary of Parliament.

Coetzee and his deputy, Baby Tyawa, were addressing journalists on Tuesday afternoon following weekend reports that the process followed was irregular, but the press conference raised even more questions, which the duo refused to answer.

At one point, Tyawa said journalists should be "embarrassed" for asking questions around the costs of constructing the late statesman's bust.

"I'm also interested to hear our colleagues criticising Parliament for taking 20 years to actually have a symbol of Mandela … and for us to sit here and discuss why and how, it's actually embarrassing that 20 years down the line, we don't have a single symbol of Mandela," she said, as part of a response to a question about the costs.

The Sunday Times reported it had legal opinion sought by Parliament on the bust, which questioned the emergency status of the project and the money spent on it.

Coetzee said they opted for a closed tender where they sought a sole provider because of a tight deadline. "The big issue that we want to address here is the reflection that there has been a violation of policy and procedure. In this case, nothing was untoward," he said.

Coetzee said while the issue of putting up a Mandela bust was always on Parliament's agenda, they received an "instruction" in February this year "to hurry up to finish this matter in the fourth Parliament".

At first, he refused to tell journalists who gave the instruction, but later said it was a multiparty parliamentary committee, which was set up to look into getting the statue. "We had a few weeks from February to commission an artist and a process to get the bust done. It was less than a month. It put us in a difficult situation.

"We have a provision on our supply chain management policy for emergency procedure for a sole provider. I made the decision to go for closed tender to invite a sole provider to give us a process to implement and also to construct a bust," said Coetzee.

He said in terms of the Parliament Financial Management Act, they do not lose their unspent funds, unlike government departments who surrender those funds. In fact, they looked at unspent funds to pay for this particular project.

Change of plan
Coetzee said the initial process started off with a costing and the initial quotation was R1.89-million without VAT, given the timeframe of less than five weeks of construction from start to the end of the project. But the scope changed.

The multiparty committee wanted the bust, which was initially going to be erected inside the National Assembly building, to instead be built outside in front of the National Assembly. The bust will now be located between the two pillars of the entrance.

"When we engaged with the service provider given the change of scope, the scope of the project changed quite significantly and that brought about a further change to the costs," said Coetzee.

He said the matter had become urgent because of the May 7 elections and the fact that one Parliament cannot commit another Parliament, "and after May 7, we would have the fifth Parliament".

Tyawa explained that the costs went up from R1.89m to R2.5m and rejected all the other costs that were suggested in the Sunday Times article. "If you look at material and other fees from the service provider: the legal fees, signage, transportation and everything else, it goes up to R2.5m." She also denied that Tambo was handpicked to provide the service.

Tyawa said the location of the bust was changed after "a discussion prevailed on whether we wanted to invest in hiding Madiba behind the doors of the National Assembly …" "It was put outside for exposure … visitors can take pictures, it will also be easy for tourists to access it," she said.

The bust will be 1.5-metres wide and two metres high on a plinth outside the steps of the National Assembly. It will be unveiled on April 28. The unveiling was initially proposed for July 18 [Madiba's birthday] but was changed and brought forward to April 28 in line with the term of this fourth Parliament.

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