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Durban - The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has been ordered by the Durban High Court to set aside the awarding of a multimillion-rand contract for the management and maintenance of toll plazas on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, Judge Rashid Vahed found that the awarding of the R160-million contract to Tolcon Lehumo was flawed and that Sanral had contravened a section of the constitution.
The judge ruled in favour of a review of the tender, while also ordering that the officials who adjudicated the initial award be precluded from the new process.
In July last year, the Toll Collect Consortium challenged the awarding of the contract, arguing that it was flawed.
The consortium, formed by three companies for the sole purpose of bidding for the contract, had been overlooked in favour of Tolcon Lehumo, despite having submitted a cheaper proposal.
Tolcon Lehumo had made a VAT-inclusive offer of R164.9m for the eight-year contract, while Toll Collect’s offer was R156.4m.
However, correspondence from Sanral shows that it had wrongly assumed that the offer by Toll Collect was exclusive of VAT and that it was therefore more expensive than the Tolcon Lehumo offer, which was R144.6m before VAT.
The judge said he could not understand why Sanral had assumed that Toll Collect’s offer excluded VAT without seeking clarity, adding that such an act was “not rational”.
“It was, in my view, incumbent upon (Sanral) to look at price and award the tender on the basis of the price being the dominant factor, unless objective criteria and clearly identified specific goals justify the award to a more expensive tenderer,” said Judge Vahed.
He further ruled that Sanral had violated section 217 of the constitution by altering or correcting Toll Collect’s offer.
Sanral later wrote to the consortium saying that it had not met the quality threshold and that its application was therefore not considered on this score.
“The basis for the (Toll Collect) tender failing to meet the quality standards is its inexperience in toll operations, more particularly in the management of toll operations,” Sanral had said in correspondence to Toll Collect legal representatives.
But the judge found that the applicants had only been informed of three broad categories on which they were to be scored. The sub-categories had not been mentioned, with Judge Vahed observing that “while some of the elements and sub-categories were treated apparently objectively, a fair number were certainly scored on a subjective basis”.
Soon after it was informed of its failure in the bid, the consortium requested documents, such as the successful bidder’s tender and the adjudication report, for the purposes of lodging an appeal.
Sanral refused this, saying Toll Collect was not entitled to such documents.
Judge Vahed berated Sanral over this refusal, saying it had the constitutional obligation to conduct its operations transparently. - Daily News