KNYSNA NEWS - The Knysna municipality's top structure members of the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) resigned from the committee.
The chairperson, Michael Rhode (director: Technical Services) and the deputy chairperson, Johnathan Mabula (manager: Environmental Management) submitted their written resignations on Wednesday, November 12. Two of the other remaining five members, Avitha Sunkar (manager: Budget Office) and Shaun Maree (manager: Roads and Stormwater) followed in their footsteps and also resigned.
The BEC is a crucial part of making recommendations to the Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) on the awarding of tenders.
Letters in the possession of the Knysna-Plett Herald indicate accusations by senior members of BEC of tender intervention by other parties. In his resignation letter, Rhode alleges that some reports from the BEC to the BAC never reach their destination. He claims, "It is becoming more and more evident that there is a 'BEC vetting committee' between the now BEC and BAC."
Rhode's letter continues, "I have been asked recently not to put certain comments in my reports," he wrote. He added that he noticed that some comments he had added to his reports had been removed by the time he had to sign the report. "On questioning how this happens, I was told that the secretariat was instructed to do so." In his resignation letter, Rhode also referred to a recent incident when a procuring department "went absolutely berserk" when the evaluation determined a particular contractor as the preferred bidder, this despite the department having agreed with the evaluation method until the end.
In a letter, dated November 11 and addressed to Mike Maughan-Brown (the director: Planning and Development and a member of BAC), Mabula accuses Maughan-Brown of saying at a Heads of Department (HOD) meeting the previous day that the BEC was "not competent enough to handle the complex intricacies of bid evaluation". Mabula further alleged that Maughan-Brown specifically questioned the competence of the BEC's chairperson and deputy chairperson. According to Mabula's letter, Maughan-Brown said that the BEC was "holding the municipality to ransom through their recommendations to the BAC" and that he "forcefully asked" Mabula who had been recommended for a particular tender and added that he would meet with Supply Management to "sort this mess out". Mabula wrote that he believed that the statements were made in the wrong forum. It also concerned him that the matter referred to had not yet served before the BAC.
In his writing, Mabula referred to a telephone conversation between himself and Maughan-Brown (consequent to the November 10 meeting) in which the latter said that the HOD meeting was his meeting and that he could ask and discuss anything, including BEC matter that had not yet served on the BAC. Mabula wrote that Maughan-Brown denied questioning the BEC's competence, and that the BEC could be questioned as it was subject to the rules of the municipality and that he (Maughan-Brown) was Mabula's director, even when he served on the BEC. Mabula expressed his opinion that the issues call into question the integrity of the entire Supply Chain Management process.
Councillor Stepen de Vries
On November 19, Knysna's ANC chief whip Stephen de Vries submitted a notice of a motion to be tabled at the council meeting of November 27. He refers to the majority members of the BEC's resignation and their allegations of interference with and undermining of the BEC, and recommends "that the municipal council task the Audit and Performance Audit Committee urgently to investigate the reasons that led to these resignations and report to the municipal council. In De Vries' notice of question, submitted on the same day, he refers to a complaint of interference in the BEC processes and the loss of a specific tender, as well as alleged unauthorised access to tender documents. At the council meeting he intends asking whether a complaint of this nature had been received and whether disciplinary proceedings had been implemented.
Knysna municipal manager, Lauren Waring was asked for a comprehensive comment on the BEC members' resignation, and she said: "Yes, there were four BEC members who tendered their resignations and we will be filling their positions soonest. It must be noted that this is an internal, administrative process and the situation should not hamper service delivery. A full report will be tabled on Thursday." To the question whether a new chairperson and other committee members have been appointed and who the are, she answered that such appointments "will be on a rotational basis, thus the persons' names will change and the processes are in order for the next BEC". She further stated that the municipal manager had investigated the matter regarding the members' reasons for resigning and will report to the council on Thursday.
On November 12, Knysna executive mayor Georlene Wolamarans told the Knysna-Plett Herald, "A different temporary BEC will be appointed internally by the directors and senior management for each tender. Council may not intervene with these committee's work according to the Municipal Finance Management Act, Act 56 of 2003 (117)."
Wolmarans said that the council regards the resignations and allegations in a very serious light and that the matters are on the agenda of the council meeting of November 27.
This means that on the day before she officially leaves her post, Waring will have to answer to the allegations of interference in BEC proposals to the BAC, by the BAC members and other senior officials. The chairperson of the BAC and Knysna's chief financial officer (CFO), Grant Easton will take over as acting municipal manager on November 28, when Waring departs, until the new municipal manager will take over the reins.
"If council decides that an internal investigations must be done, Easton must lead the process as acting municipal manager," Wolmarans said.
Many feels that an external chairperson must be appointed. Susan Cambell, a well-known lawyer, said on Monday, Novemner 24,, "No director or senior manager can be part of a possible investigation, because the very problem is between the BEC and the BAC of which they are all members or previous members."
In a letter addressed to Mike Maughan-Brown (director: Planning and Development),
it is alleged that he called the BEC incompetent.
ARTICLE: CHRISTO VERMAAK, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD JOURNALIST
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