A subcontractor has described the R365 million Vulindlela project to digitise over half-a-billion pages of records held by the surveyor-general and deeds offices as a failure.
Anderson Scanning Technologies (AST), a former partner of top businessman Robert Gumede’s company Gijima Holdings, has accused the JSE-listed firm of causing it serious financial embarrassment, after a row over the multimillion-rand contract.
Gijima is embroiled in a bitter legal battle with AST, which was Gijima’s subcontractor in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform project awarded to Gijima to create one comprehensive electronic land register in 2010.
The department had planned to have the e-cadastre project completed by this year. Gijima entered into an agreement with AST in January 2011 for the digitisation of records in the surveyor-general and deeds offices.
Its audit committee recently described the e-cadastre project as an area of concern and recommended a forensic investigation into it, according to its 2012/13 annual report.
In papers filed at the Johannesburg High Court, AST managing director Andrew Anderson says Gijima is bringing an application for AST’s winding up with “proverbial dirty hands”.
“AST had a number of defences against the liquidation application, the pivotal one of which is that Gijima launched its liquidation application with proverbial dirty hands, it (Gijima) having been entirely responsible for the financial discomfort AST was experiencing,” Anderson says in court papers.
According to Anderson, “Gijima’s arrogance is astounding: it has no right, contractually or otherwise to be in possession of AST’s information and assets yet it brazenly appoints itself as the guardian thereof”.
In her answering affidavit, Gijima chief executive Eileen Wilton disputes AST’s claim that Gijima is arrogant and conceited.
Wilton challenges AST to demonstrate that it was not insolvent and was able to pay its debts.
Wilton says unless AST is solvent and able to pay its debt, which she says it is not, there would be little or no prospect of avoiding the granting of a liquidation order.
She further says AST’s former financial director Jorika Kriel also appeared to have been concerned about the manner in which the company’s affairs were run.
“The claim that Gijima was responsible for AST’s parlous financial state is without substance whatsoever,” Wilton says in court papers.
Instead, Wilton says, at the time AST was contracted by Gijima it was insolvent and unable to raise the funds it required to perform the sub-contractor agreement.
Quoting Kriel’s affidavit, Wilton says Anderson diverted millions of rand of AST funds for his personal purposes and that of his family.
However, Anderson describes some of Gijima’s allegations as spurious and says AST will be irretrievably prejudiced if it has to endure the threat of liquidation for a considerable period.
Gijima and AST had 30 months until January next year to scan all records in the eeds offices and offices of the surveyor-general.
In response to Gijima’s liquidation application, AST is demanding that Gijima restore possession of its offices in Centurion, Tshwane and Cape Town, financial records and data, hard copy and electronic, stored in Centurion and Cape Town in an interlocutory (temporary) application. AST says the premises and information are in Gijima’s unlawful possession.
AST also wants Gijima staff to immediately vacate both premises and interdict and prohibit Gijima from using equipment on both premises especially not for its lucrative Vulindlela project.
Gijima cancelled the agreement due to an alleged breach by AST, according to court papers.
AST says it was compelled to launch the application to access the Centurion and Cape Town premises.
Another concurrent Pretoria High Court action for R184 million in damages is also on the cards after AST served summons on Gijima last month. In its 2012/13 annual report, the department says it overpaid Gijima for the digitisation by more than R51m.
The department says Gijima agreed to work back the credit.
Last Friday, Gijima lawyer Brian Kahn said AST had no desire to expedite the liquidation application and its own counter application.
Kahn said AST had no desire or ability to continue with any business and that Gijima wanted the matters resolved as soon as possible.
The department admits that the project fell behind schedule for a number of reasons, including disagreement between the department and Gijima and that delivery deadlines within the plan may not be realised. - The Sunday Independent