Cape Town - The Independent Electoral Commission altered the evaluation criteria for the R320 million leasing contract for its Centurion head office to benefit a company that did not submit a tax clearance certificate before deadline.
In fact, its bid adjudication process that awarded the contract to a firm partly owned by Parliament’s finance committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi ,was fraught with errors.
This had prejudiced Khwela City, the company whose bid met all the criteria.
These were just some of the findings of an independent forensic audit into the controversial contract for the leasing of the Riverside Office Park.
The report, by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), was commissioned by the Treasury after a recommendation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in August.
It recommended that IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula and two other senior managers, a Mr Du Plessis and a Mr Lang-try, be held responsible for the mess.
IEC commissioner Terry Tselane said the body would respond after the May 7 elections.
Madonsela had found that Tlakula had risked the IEC’s reputation by failing to disclose her business relationship with Mufamadi before the awarding of the contract.
Tlakula hit back at the time, saying Madonsela did not have the power to investigate the allegations of maladministration against her. She said Madonsela’s probe was “fraught with numerous procedural and substantive irregularities” and that she did not have the power to refer her to the Speaker of the National Assembly or President Jacob Zuma.
However, the PwC report released on Tuesday corroborated Madonsela.
It found that the instruction that Tlakula gave for the procurement process to be followed was in conflict with the IEC’s policy or procedure.
“The procurement process followed was not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive or cost effective,” the report states.
It adds that the adjudication meeting chaired by Tlakula had shortlisted Abland, despite the fact that the firm had changed its occupation date of August 1, 2010 to the prescribed April 1, 2010 date.
“Exco effectively changed the evaluation criteria for the benefit of Abland… through the process without offering the same benefit to other bidders that have been disqualified earlier in the process.
“Had Khwela City not been disqualified, as a result of errors, and had they been given the benefit of the amended occupation date, they would have scored higher points than Abland… and they would have been cheaper.”
PwC also found that on August 21 last year, Tlakula signed the lease agreement with Abland “although the tax clearance certificate for the members of the Abland Consortium are, in (several) instances, dated after this”.
The bidders were scored only after the IEC had already approved the Abland bid as the preferred bid on July 6, 2009.
Treasury spokesman, Xolisa Dodo, said: “The decision on how best to deal with the forensic report is the responsibility of the IEC.”
In addition, the report also found that:
* The IEC failed to exercise diligence in assessing the bids presented to them, leading to the electoral body leasing a bigger building, leading to additional expenditure.
* Too much space was leased even though a smaller building would have sufficed.
* The use of bigger space, the effect on the rentals of tenants and the higher operating costs had resulted in the IEC incurring obligations of at least R20.8m above the expected market norms over the 10-year term of the lease.
* The final costs for changes to the specifications of the building, at the request of the IEC, would escalate from over R22 600 to over R46 million over the lease period.
Daily News Correspondent