KNYSNA NEWS - The much awaited outcome of the Western Cape Treasuary’s investigation into alleged irregularities in the awarding of the tender to steer the Integrated Strategic Development Framework (ISDF), has been included in the agenda of the Knysna Mayoral Committee meeting today, February 19).
Knysna executive mayor Georlene Wolmarans, who requested the Western Cape minister of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde (then provincial minister of Finance) to assess the procurement process, will inform council of the outcome and give her recommendation in the hope that this plan, which was conceived in 2012, will move forward as it is now nearing the public participation stage in respect of the draft ISDF document.
However, the full report of the investigation into the tender process has still not been made available.
In a letter to Wolmarans, dated November 25, Minister Anton Bredell (Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning) summarised the outcome of the investigation report. This letter also mentions that the full report has been attached to the emailed letter. However, municipal communications manager, Christopher Bezuidenhout, claims that Wolmarans denied that the email contained an attachment and in consequent recommendations, she only comments on the content of the body of the email, which she claimed was the only communication she received.
According to Bredell's letter, the assessment revealed that the process followed is considered compliant with SCM principals and regulations. “However, certain deficiencies were identified which, according to the report, did not influence the outcome of the procurement process.” Despite ten unfavorable findings, he concludes that the process complied with regulations and was not compromised.
Among these findings were:
· A correction to the original invitation to tender was not published in all the newspapers for the stipulated length of time.
· A lack of reasons why the tender was not awarded to the highest point scorer.
· The absence of objective criteria to justify the award of the tender to the second-highest scoring bidder.
· Possible conflict of interest of the company that won the tender, Knysna Creative Heads, property developers in Knysna.
· The possible future conflict of interest in appointing a property developing company that has in the past submitted proposals to develop the urban edge area and that does work for PG Bison in areas that will be included in the ISDF.
· A substantial payment (almost R498 560) to Knysna Creative Heads before the signing of the contract.
Wolmarans said that changes to the tender invitation were only published in one newspaper to save costs. However all bidders who requested tender documents were informed of the change.
She found that the Bid Adjudication Committee's (BAC) minutes indicated that the bid was awarded to achieve Council’s objectives. She further says that the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) did not specifically draw to the BAC's attention to a possible conflict of interest. In her response, Wolmarans indicated that there were only ever "perceived conflict of interest". "… [A]ll bidders would have conflict issues, there was no need to write it down."
Wolmarans also made it clear that the Council Preferential Procurement Strategy was already in place in 2012 and that the bid was only awarded in 2013. She also pointed out that "potential conflict of interest is inherent in a planning process of this sort". She said the potential may be greater in some instances but that there is no fair and transparent way of determining the level at which point such conflict of interest becomes unacceptable. She added that what is important is not who benefits, but rather that "no one should be disadvantaged (directly or indirectly, through damage to the environment) by decisions made during the planning process with the specific intention of benefiting an party in the future". She said the risk of that is mitigated by the Steering Committee.
Regarding the payment made to Creative Heads, the municipality only submitted proof of payment.
She invited Provincial Treasury to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations made. She also said that a new manager: Supply Chain Management (Fredri Kruger) has been appointed and that processes are better as a result.
She also took the opportunity to remind Bredell of Knysna’s two "clean audits" in a row and said that this year’s SCM Audit specifically included this tender because of the interest in its award, and notwithstanding that it was an award made in a previous year.
According to Susan Campbell, representing the Knysna Ratepayers Association, the report is most unsatisfactory. "Ten negative findings contradict the conclusion that the process had complied with regulations and was not compromised.
"The recommendations make no attempt to address the material shortcomings associated with the ISDF tender, but are merely aimed at avoiding repeating the same mistakes in other tenders in the future.
"The residents and ratepayers of Knysna are therefore left with the untenable situation where the wrong bidder has been awarded a tender in terms of which Knysna’s long-term development future is to be determined and mapped out. To make matters worse, at least two of the consultants, namely CMAI and Marike Vreken Town Planners, have a personal and professional interest in the outcome of the matter.
"Knysna residents and ratepayers are not the only parties who have been prejudiced by the flawed ISDF tender.
"The members of the City Think Space team have also suffered significant prejudice and material loss. The team spent time, resources and considerable effort in preparing a bid for the very complex ISDF tender. The team had tendered the lowest price and scored the highest points and should therefore have been awarded the tender. The award of the tender to KCHC was unlawful and exposes the KM to potential litigation in the form of a damages claim that may be successfully instituted by City Think Space.
"This situation is unacceptable and needs to be urgently rectified and addressed to ensure that the process is not further compromised and to introduce credibility to the process."