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School catering contract was unlawful, finds judge

The Western Cape High Court granted a declaratory order against the School Governing Body (SGB) and Star Catering.

The Western Cape High Court granted a declaratory order against the School Governing Body (SGB) and Star Catering.

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Cape Town - A catering company providing services to the Western Cape Sport School has been fired from a five-year contract after it was found that the process in appointing it was unlawful.

The Western Cape High Court granted a declaratory order against the School Governing Body (SGB) and Star Catering, as it found the SGB did not have a constitution; had not adopted a finance and procurement policy; and was not properly constituted at the time of the catering company’s appointment.

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In addition to this there was no evidence that the SGB had undertaken a fair, transparent, cost-effective, equitable and competitive procurement process.

Education MEC David Maynier’s spokesperson, Kerry Mauchline, said they welcomed the judgment and agreed with the outcome.

The department was an applicant in the matter.

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“The current SGB has confirmed that they will make temporary arrangements for a catering service at the hostel, until they finalise their decision on a catering contract going forward.

“If a decision is taken to appoint a new service provider, the procurement process must be started from scratch: it must be decided at a quorate governing body meeting, advertised widely in newspapers, and be lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. The contracting period should also not be longer than one year,” said Mauchline.

An investigation was launched after the school principal reported the challenges he was suffering with the SGB, seeking urgent intervention.

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The SGB was dissolved in March 2020 because it had ceased to perform the functions allocated to it in terms of the South African Schools Act.

High Court Judge Katharine Savage ordered that the contract given to Star Catering for the provision of catering services “is declared unlawful and invalid” with immediate effect.

Her judgment detailed that Star Catering was appointed after making a presentation at the school, after being informed earlier that the school wanted to appoint a new service provider.

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“On 4 September 2019, the SGB held a special meeting, following which Star Catering received a letter on 5 September 2019 informing it that it had been appointed as ‘service provider of the food catering contract’ to the school. Under the terms of the contract, Star Catering was appointed to provide food catering services to the school for a period of five years, with the commencement date of the contract being 1 October 2019.

“There is no evidence of a proper procurement process having been undertaken by either the school or the SGB in this matter. There is no evidence that a tender was advertised in order to ensure a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective process. There is no record of quotations received and considered by the SGB to ensure compliance with the relevant procurement procedures. There is no minute recording a clear and unequivocal decision taken by SGB to award the contract to Star Catering or the reasons why this decision was taken. There is no evidence that the decision taken was fair, equitable, transparent, competitive or cost-effective,” the judgment read.

Cape Times

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