The controversial security tender awarded to 37 companies by the eThekwini Municipality in August is now being investigated by the police.
This was confirmed by city manager Sipho Nzuza in an affidavit filed in the Durban High Court where the city argued there was no need to review or stop the tender.
In his affidavit Nzuza also revealed that allegations that suspended deputy head of supply chain management Zandile Sithole irregularly influenced the awarding of the tender were the reason she was suspended.
Previously, the city refused to comment on the matter.
“These and other allegations of fraud and corruption have been brought to the attention of the Hawks, and are currently the subject of an investigation by the SAPS,” Nzuza states in the affidavit.
A person claiming to be an employee of the city had sent an email in which allegations were made that Sithole had sought to influence the tender process in favour of some companies in which she had an interest.
“Her (Sithole’s) strategy was to get as many companies in as possible, then there would be no appeals, or the potential for appeals would be extremely low. Thereafter she would dish out the work as she pleases, and everyone can do sweet nothing about it because it is the city’s prerogative as to how and who to give the work out (to),” claims the whistle-blower in the email, which was presented as part of the court papers.
Nzuza said, however, that he had been informed by a municipal official who was involved in the procurement process that, contrary to allegations, Sithole was not part of the bid specification committee and that she did not evaluate or adjudicate the security tender.
Nzuza said there was also no indication that Sithole had a shareholding, a directorship or any interest in these companies.
The security tender has been dogged by controversy for many years, resulting in it being extended on several occasions since 2007. Some of these challenges were the result of appeals.
Nzuza said the applicants, who were existing service providers, had “unduly benefited from extensions and Section 36 appointments, which have been ongoing for a period of more than 10 years”.
He said that under Section 36 appointments, the municipality was paying more than it should.
On September 27, the court ordered that eThekwini had to effectively restart the tender process. Judge Gregory Kruger ordered the municipality to start seeking quotations and to conclude that process before the end of last month.
The existing service providers would then have 30 days to hand over to new service providers.
It was, however, not clear whether the municipality had complied with this order or not.
eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said: “As a municipality we believe that the matter is being handled with due diligence, and that every step is being taken to comply with the relevant directives of the court.”
At least three aggrieved security companies, Imvula Quality Protection, Secureco Metsu (Pty Ltd) and Khuselani Security and Risk Management (KSA), challenged the tender processes before court.
The disputed contract was supposed to be effective from September 1.
Imvula’s application against the municipality was supported by Secureco.
The court applications centred around the whistle-blower’s email that implicated Sithole.
In an affidavit, Secureco chief financial officer Nirendra Mahabeer said despite the contract having been awarded, the 37 companies were kept completely in the dark regarding the extent and scope of the work expected from them.
According to court papers, some of the tender applications submitted by the companies were said to be in contravention of the minimum salary terms for security guards in terms of the sectoral determination.
Mahomed Yacoob, the director of Khuselani, had warned in an affidavit that the awarding of the tender would “result in the security of the entire municipal area being compromised due to the lack of a comprehensive, rational and orderly handover strategy being in place”.
But Nzuza argued that the parties that had made the application simply wanted to ensure that the status quo was maintained to the exclusion of other “equally qualifying and competitive bidders”.
Zandile Sithole could not be reached for comment.