OPINION

Dodgy tenders in Ba-Phalaborwa municipality - Cilliers Brink

DA MP calls for urgent action by provincial and national govt to prevent cover-up

DA calls on national government to ensure that dodgy tenders and possible cover-ups in Limpopo municipality are properly probed

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for urgent action by provincial and national government to prevent what appears to be a cover-up of rigged tenders and unlawful payments in the Ba-Phalaborwa municipality in Limpopo.

Documents in the DA’s possession, which can be made available on request, indicate that Ba-Phalaborwa awarded two tenders on respectively 26 June and 4 July 2019, for turnkey capital projects without following a competitive bidding process - one for the refurbishment of the Namakgale Stadium, and the other for the installation of storm water culverts in various areas.

The company appointed on the Namakgale Stadium contract invoiced the municipality for half a million rand’s work within two days of reportedly being appointed. The invoice was paid the next day. The R930 000 storm water culverts invoice was paid within 11 days. This is despite the fact that in the 2017/18 financial year Ba-Phalaborwa only had enough cash on hand to pay for six days of operations (the norm is 3 months).

Despite evidence of these payments, there is no evidence that tenders were formally awarded either for the refurbishment of the Namakgale Stadium or the installation of storm water culverts in the period January to June 2019.

Only in October 2019, months after they had received payment, were the companies contracted to serve on municipality’s panels of civil and electrical engineers. For a panelist to receive work before the panel in question has even been constituted is a logical and legal impossibility. And it suggests that Ba-Phalaborwa’s competitive bidding processes, designed to secure the best expertise and value for money, were deliberately by-passed.

Sources inside the municipality claim that the ANC Mayor of Ba-Phalaborwa, Cllr Merriam Malatji, was given the same documents now in the DA’s possession. But she allegedly has not made a full disclosure to the municipal council, and neither has the council appointed an independent investigator as required by disciplinary regulations for senior managers of the Municipal Systems Act.

The matter has instead, at the Mayor’s apparent behest, been fobbed off to a committee of councillors that has no legal authority to investigate the allegations.

The DA will write to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as to National Treasury to inform them, and urge that they, in cooperation with the relative provincial authorities and as far as is in their power, ensure that immediate action is taken in order to establish the facts of the matter and institute appropriate remedial action.

The DA has also written to Limpopo MEC for local government, Mr Basikopo Makhumo, asking him to use his power in terms of section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act to order an independent investigation and take steps to prevent implicated officials from undermining the investigation. See letter here

But accountability of ordinary officials is not enough. Mayor Malatji herself must clarify what she knew about these transactions, and when she knew it.

In the run-up to the 2021 local government elections voters deserve to be able to put faces and names to stories of financial mismanagement and the breakdown of services, especially in small, rural towns.

Statement issued by Cilliers Brink MP - Shadow Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, 5 January 2020