Lindela contract 'awarded on merit'

Time of article published Jun 25, 2007

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By Angela Quintal and Janine Stephen

Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says her department had little choice when it re-awarded the multi-million-rand Lindela repatriation centre contract to the same company in 2005.

The lucrative contract to Leading Prospect Trading, a 100 percent-owned subsidiary of the Bosasa group of companies, has come under fire in parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) following a performance audit by the Auditor-General.

It is part of a host of service-provider contracts that home affairs wants to renegotiate.

The minister also echoed what her new director-general, Mavuso Msimang, said in a radio interview last week: that there were not enough bidders and that the department was at a tremendous disadvantage.

The company actually owned the infrastructure and buildings, and the department eventually had to accept the new deal, Mapisa-Nqakula stated.

Msimang acknowledged in parliament last week that the contract was not good and was tantamount to a rip-off, a view shared by Scopa chairperson Themba Godi.

Although she was not party to negotiating the deal, Mapisa-Nqakula said she did not believe there was anything underhand or corrupt in the awarding of the contract. "My understanding is that it was awarded on merit," she said.

Meanwhile, the minister has had to postpone a meeting with her recently appointed communications adviser, Stephen Laufer.

He had commented, as a Bosasa spokesperson, last week to a media query relating to the company's shareholding in the light of questions about alleged special treatment from the government in relation to Department of Correctional Services tenders.

"There was no scandal and there is no scandal," he said.

When asked later about his dual role, Laufer said he had declared other clients of his communications company to home affairs.

He had also recused himself in writing from any further possible dealings with Lindela.

However, Mapisa-Nqakula said Laufer had not indicated that he worked for Bosasa and she was concerned that he had commented on behalf of the company on a matter relating to Lindela.

She was meant to have met him on Saturday to discuss the issue, but her spokesperson, Cleo Mosana, said the meeting had to be postponed until Sunday night.

Questions were raised last year when it was discovered that another Bosasa company, Sondolo IT, wrote part of a tender worth millions that was later awarded to it by Correctional Services.

Msimang told Scopa that the department would use its "best legal brains" to review the Lindela contract.

The 10-year contract stipulates that the department must pay R79 per person per day for the care of detained persons, but it must pay for a minimum average monthly threshold of 3 250 people.

However, as pointed out in a report by the Auditor-General, since the contract began in October 2005, the number of people detained at Lindela had never reached 3 250 a day and often averaged about 1 500 a month.

Godi did not mince his words, saying the contract "displayed tendencies characteristic of people who milk the state".

The Star has established that the directors of Leading Prospect Trading are PF Leshabane, TI Mncwaba, J Gumede, MCF Mkhele and NLT Makoko.

Bosasa Operations is 100 percent owned by Bosasa Empowerment and Management Services. The directors are Mkhele, Mncwaba and G Watson.

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