File picture: Karen Sandison/Independent Media
Johannesburg - Counter-allegations of fraud and corruption are playing themselves out in court between the SABC and the losing bidder of a R185million security tender.

The public broadcaster’s former interim board chairperson, Khanyisile Kweyama, and individuals at the SABC have been accused of “corruptly” ensuring that the losing bidder - Mjayeli Security - was not awarded the lucrative contract.

This was despite the SABC’s procurement processes having declared Mjayeli the highest-scoring bidder. The firm’s bid was R2m cheaper than the appointed firm, Mafoko Security.

However, in court papers filed last week, the public broadcaster in turn accused Mjayeli Security of colluding with SABC staff to score favourably in the bidding process.

The SABC has also requested the court not to listen to the matter until the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had concluded its probe. The investigations were expected to be concluded in six months.

In December, Mjayeli asked the high court in Joburg to set Mafoko’s appointment aside until the broadcaster had explained the procurement process.

In his application, Mjayeli director Jones Maphalaphathwa said he was at all times confident that his firm stood a good chance of winning the tender. But upon enquiry, the SABC informed him it had accepted “a more favourable proposal”.

“I was extremely disappointed, as I was confident that Mjayeli’s bid would outscore every other competitor. I suspected that something in the tender process may have been irregular, and due to the magnitude of the tender (R185m), I decided to investigate the matter,” Maphalaphathwa wrote.

He also claims, in court papers, that he asked the SABC several times to release documents relating to the tender process, but was ignored.

In his replying affidavit, SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini, however, asked the court not to hear the matter as it was being probed by the SIU.

Makhathini stated that he had received an anonymous letter from a whistle-blower accusing Kweyama, board member Mathatha Tsedu and chief security officer Simon Mathebula of impropriety in the appointment of Mafoko.

In the letter, Kweyama is accused of having received illegal payments.

Despite this, Makhathini said he wants Mafoko to continue rendering the services until the matter had been resolved by the SIU.

He said anything contrary to this would be “extremely costly”, adding that starting the process from scratch would be “cumbersome and potentially dangerous”.

He also admitted that Mjayeli had been the recommended bidder, but that the interim board had decided not to appoint the firm after the SABC’s finance investment procurement and technology committee (FIPTC) raised concerns about the bidding process.

Makhathini said Mjayeli was among the bidders, but had been eliminated as it did not demonstrate that it had a national key point certificate.

Indications were also that Mjayeli “did not have the capacity to render the services”. After the tender was re-advertised and bids evaluated for approval, the board “concluded that based on papers before it, Mjayeli was not a company the FIPTC would recommend to the board for appointment”.

Mjayeli, he said, was accused of colluding with SABC staff to skew evaluations. He also questioned how Mjayeli went from being disqualified for not meeting requirements to being a shortlisted bidder.

Makhathini said the board hoped the SIU probe would clarify some of the anomalies.

“The board decided to appoint (Mafoko) oblivious of the accusations. This, it appears, was done amid the accusations, which prima facie suggest some wrongdoing by (Mjayeli), alternatively, (the SABC),” he said.

Makhathini told The Star they could not at this stage respond to questions, as these deal with the merits of the litigation and are not only subject to the finalisation of a court process, but also the outcome of the SIU’s investigation.

He also confirmed receiving the whistle-blower’s report containing allegations against some board members in relation to the awarding of the disputed tender.

“While these are just allegations and the SABC has not established the veracity thereof, I have forwarded the whistle-blower’s report to the SIU to include in their full investigation of the tender for security services at the SABC,” he added.

Maphalaphathwa’s lawyer Nina Botha said they had not yet made a decision regarding opposing the application brought by the SABC.

“The merits of their application are still being considered by myself along with the advocates who form part of our legal team,” she added.

The Star