Cape Town - Threats of legal action and forensic probes, and allegations of misconduct and tender irregularities, continue to mar the smooth running of the City of Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus service.
It has been three months since the city cancelled Lumen Technologies’ R234-million IT contract, but there is still no indication of when a new company will be appointed.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town, has confirmed that the city is currently unable to electronically monitor the bus service’s adherence to the timetable, and real-time passenger information displays have been affected.
Many of the complaints logged by commuters on the city’s MyCiTi Facebook page refer to the electronic timetables at stations being out of order. One commuter said: “Getting worse… doing the T01 Route… Over crowded buses… announcements and name boards in the buses don’t work… electronic timetables at stations out of order… contemplating using my car again!”
Herron confirmed that three companies have submitted bids to take over Lumen’s contract. They are Green Telematics, the Bona/Trapeze Consortium and TMT Services and Suppliers. “The evaluation process has not been concluded yet and until such time it has, it remains a confidential process.”
Meanwhile the council has had two opportunities to consider the allegations of misconduct made by Lumen Technologies against the city’s head of transport.
In April, a report providing a summary of the allegations was submitted to the council for decision. But the report, which was a “green” or confidential item, did not include allegations levelled against Melissa Whitehead, Commissioner of Transport for Cape Town.
Despite not having all the information, the council agreed that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims, and the allegations against Whitehead were dismissed.
But Lumen’s legal team contested this decision, and asked that a detailed report outlining the allegations be submitted to the next council meeting in May. At this meeting, the National Party SA raised concerns about the withholding of information in this matter.
Councillor Achmat Williams asked: “We as councillors must at all times make informed decisions, but how can we do (this) if all the facts relevant to the issue are not before council?”
However, despite being presented with the actual allegations from Lumen – barring one paragraph that was blocked out because the remarks were defamatory – the council again agreed that there not enough evidence to support the claims.
In its complaint, Lumen contended that certain subcontractors enjoyed preferential treatment from Whitehead and that the control screen portion of its contract – worth R5m – was cut and eventually given to a subcontractor, Bona, after an unusually short evaluation process.
Lumen claimed it was excluded from meetings involving the city and its own subcontractors. The company also questioned Whitehead’s prior relationship with some of the subcontractors, stemming from her tenure with the City of Joburg.
But Herron said the IT contract was awarded to Lumen Technologies in 2011, before Whitehead was appointed Commissioner of Transport for Cape Town. He said Lumen made the allegations because it had lost a lucrative contract with the city.
Herron said: “Lumen Technologies has the right to dispute the cancellation in court. Likewise, the city has the right to seek a declaratory order confirming our decision to cancel the contract. The city also has the right to sue Lumen for any damages arising from their non-performance and the cancellation of the contract. We are considering our rights.”
Lumen’s Sedicka Chilwan said the company was still in mediation with the city about its cancelled contract.
“It is ironic that since we have been allegedly cancelled, the (MyCiTi) has had major issues, but while we were part of it, it ran effectively.”
Chilwan said Lumen could not comment on allegations of overbilling by Trapeze, one of its subcontractors, as this was part of a legal process. But Chilwan did say that the city cancelled its contract shortly after it raised the alarm about Trapeze’s prices.
Lumen has also not ruled out taking its allegations of misconduct, which were dismissed by the council, to court.
The city was recently ordered to reinstate a beach-cleaning contract, and pay legal costs of R1.8m, after the Western Cape High Court ruled it had acted unlawfully.
Meanwhile Lumen is embroiled in a legal disputes over non-payment.
One if its subcontractors, Questek, filed an application this year to have Lumen liquidated. Chilwan said this matter was pending.