Roy Cokayne

A botched Road Accident Fund (RAF) tender process to appoint a new national panel of attorneys to represent the fund would result in wasteful and fruitless expenditure running into “tens of millions of rand”, it has been claimed.

The primary source of funds for the RAF is from a levy on sales of petrol and diesel.

A Port Elizabeth High Court judgment last month declared the tender, which led to the RAF appointing 33 law firms to its national panel of attorneys, irregular and invalid and set aside the tender award made in August last year.

However, Judge Clive Plasket suspended the setting aside of the tender award for eight months to give the RAF a reasonable period within which to start and complete a new tender process to ensure the RAF still had law firms to represent the fund in court.

MC Botha, the managing director of Joubert Galpin Searle, the first applicant in the review application, claimed last week that it remained within the powers of the RAF to minimise “what has now turned into rampant wasteful and fruitless expenditure”.

Botha said the RAF was aware of the chaos that had been caused and about the wastage of funds but was still insisting that the handover of cases from old panel attorneys to new panel attorneys must continue. He confirmed attempts were being made to persuade the RAF to change its view and avoid the significant wastage of taxpayers’ funds during this transitional period.

The RAF failed to respond to an e-mailed request on Thursday for comment about the judgment and what it intended to do to minimise the wastage of funds.

The Black Lawyers Association was an applicant in the RAF tender review application.

Busani Mabunda, the association’s chairman, said the RAF had only terminated the mandates of the attorney firms on its panels in the Eastern and Western Cape.

Mabunda questioned how the RAF could take work away from old panel firms in the Eastern and Western Cape and give it to new panel firms whose contracts had been declared unlawful and set aside by the high court judgment.

“We need to engage on this because we don’t believe they [the RAF] are doing things correctly,” he said.

Botha said there was a panel of six to 10 attorney firms, each with between 1 000 and 2 000 RAF files at various stages of maturity, in each of the provinces.

He said the old panel attorneys would now have to hand over their files to the new panel attorneys despite the high court judgment because their mandates had been terminated by the RAF. This meant each file had to be copied and a memorandum drafted about each case, which involved additional costs to the RAF.

The file was then handed over to the new panel attorneys, who had to familiarise themselves with each case, which further duplicated the costs.

Botha said if a specific matter was close to trial, it was likely it would be postponed and unnecessary court costs paid to give the new panel attorneys sufficient time to familiarise themselves with the case.

This would also deprive road accident victim of having their claims finalised.

But Botha said this duplication of costs would reoccur and the entire process of handing over RAF cases and the wasted costs repeated again at taxpayer’s expense when the RAF, as ordered by the high court judgment, concluded the new tender process by November 30 and another new panel was appointed with effect from December 1.