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Pretoria - The biggest printing and distribution contract in the country to supply workbooks to pupils in all provinces in Grade R to Grade 9, will remain in tact for now.

This is after the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on Wednesday turned down a review application brought by JSE-listed printing giant Caxton’s CTP Limited, Bongani Rainmaker Logistics and Ndabase Printing Solutions, of the tender.

Bidders were called on in 2016 to submit tenders for the printing, packaging and delivery of 60 million school workbooks for a period of three years, with a possible two-year extension. The tender is worth between R2 billion and R3 billion over three years. 

It was implemented in April last year and is set to run until March 2020.

But a bitter legal wrangle ensued over the tender, which was awarded to the Lebone Consortium, which consisted of Lebone Litho Printers, Novus Holdings and UTI SA. Novus is also listed on the JSE.

CTP took the matter to court on various grounds, including that the process which was followed in awarding the tender to its rivals, was unfair and does not comply with the Constitution. It asked the court to find that the tender award was not legally valid.

Judge John Murphy, however, turned the application down and said in his opinion, there were no reviewable irregularities present which led to the tender being awarded to the Lebone Consortium.

The Department of Basic Education, which was cited as one of the respondents, for the past decade developed and run a flagship project to provide workbooks to pupils in Grade R to Grade 9 at public schools.

Under this project children in 24 000 public schools nationwide receive tailor-made packages of workbooks. Judge Murphy remarked that these books provide a high-quality teaching tool for everyday use in classrooms, intended to assist teachers and improve the performance of pupils. It provides a set of standardised exercises.

The 60 million workbooks comprise 8.78 billion pages in the 11 official languages. It entails high quality printing with colour plates, stickers and glossy covers. 

The printing and delivery of these books takes place twice a year and the printing cycle involves a 95-day print and pack cycle. The distribution cycle is about 35 days.

“The production of the workbooks and their delivery to schools is thus an involved and intricate process requiring a service provider with the relevant systems in place to carry out what is undoubtedly a huge and logistically complex task,” the judge said. 

He added that the award of the tender and the capacity of the department to deliver on its constitutional mandate are thus matters of national importance, impacting on all school children throughout the country. 

Lebone and Novus have been printing and distributing the books since the project was initiated in 2010. It had recently formed a consortium in this regard with UTI as a subcontractor. 

The consortium has tendered these services with some success and have ensured that the books arrived at the schools on time, the judge said.

The CTP joint venture disputed, among others, the tender process which was followed in appointing their rivals as the successful service providers.

Judge Murphy, in a 50 page judgment, dealt with each of these grievances and concluded that the method of evaluating the bids was not tainted by  irregularities so as to render the evaluation procedurally unfair, unreasonable or contrary to the constitution.

In turning down the application, he also slapped the applicants with the legal bill, which is expected to be substantial as each side made use of three advocates, including Silks (SC’s). 

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Pretoria News