By Tony Weaver and Dominique Herman

The City of Cape Town will announce on Thursday who won the tender to manage the city's parking system - and the Cape Times has reliably learnt that the front-runner is a company operated by two white men from Middelburg in Mpumalanga with no big city parking experience.

One is an ex-police officer who resigned from the force on April 2, the other is still employed by the Middelburg traffic department. Their partner is a black woman whose shareholding in the company Numque20 cc was only registered on March 16, according to the sources.

The city's procurement policy specifically states that companies that tender for city contracts must "meet a minimum of 30 percent BEE... at prime contract level". The black woman owns 60 percent of the company, while the two white men own 40 percent.

However, according to sources, the actual operational side of the parking system will be sub-contracted to a separate company, Veta Parking cc, which is wholly owned by the two white men and their wives.

The third company involved is the equipment supplier, Diversified Parking Systems (DPS) which also has the name "Dedicated Public Security", and a Middelburg PO Box number on its letterhead.

In a letter to the city dated April 8, that company's L J Cass writes that their system is "extremely effective" in the collection of parking fees and supplies a list of 12 towns mostly in Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, where the system is operating.

Cass writes that "this system has three basic attributes of which the first is the fact that it does not cost a municipality any financial outlay at all and in fact results in a nett (sic) income to the larger municipalities where financially feasible".

The letter continues that "it is seen that motorists who were not willing to pay for parking in the past thus find it is no longer that easy but rather extremely difficult to get away".

But sources in the city's law enforcement and traffic divisions say they are even more concerned about the proposed modus operandi of the company, should it be the preferred bidder.

The company plans to abolish the current prepaid ADO credit card-type system and introduce guards, who will wear bibs and uniforms and who will carry hand-held meters in which they will mark the amount of time each car has been parked.

When the driver returns to the car, his or her return time will be punched into the meter, and the motorist will be charged for the elapsed time.

The ADO system was specifically implemented to ensure a high turnover of cars in the city centre and to prevent motorists from hogging a bay for an entire day. The new system, the sources said, will mean that the city will in all likelihood return to a situation where there is a critical shortage of vacant parking bays.

Evidently, the new system will entail the parking attendant telling motorists who have overstayed their parking time that they will be fined and that they have to personally punch in an acknowledgement of guilt on the hand-held meters.

"That has no legal standing whatsoever," one law enforcement source said, "especially if motorists simply refuse to punch in their acknowledgement."

Another source said that the contract period starts on May 15, which means the new company would have only 10 days in which to erect signage, but it takes at least three months to get council approval for new signage, the source said.

The Cape Times also understands that the tender bid was not approved by Mark Sangster, the outgoing chief of city police, or by Mervyn Merrington, the traffic chief.

Both men refused to comment when approached on Wednesday.

Frank van der Velde, executive support officer for the implementation of the new system said that the system would be explained to the public at a media briefing to be held at the civic centre on Thursday afternoon.

He would neither confirm nor deny that the Middelburg company had been awarded the tender.

Easipark has been operating the Cape Town Partnership's parking system for the past four years.

Their contract ends on May 14, when the new parking system will be implemented.

The company was notified that its bid to renew the contract had been rejected on December 22, according to Easipark managing director, Mike Clark.

Clark said that, in order to be a contender, Easipark had formed a consortium with two other companies so that each one would provide some aspect of what the tender required.

The consortium was one of seven bidders for the contract.

One of the two companies in the consortium was ADO, which supplies the smart card technology, the meters and the payment software.

The other was Ace, which provided the meter maintenance and technology backup. Easipark's role was the on-street parking operations.

The consortium was called Ace Kerbside Parking.

Clark said they appealed the decision citing irregularities in the scoring and evaluation report as well as the recommendation of the tender evaluation committee.

The consortium's appeal to the city manager was submitted in mid-February and, at the beginning of March, city manager, Wallace Mgoqi, agreed that there were indeed irregularities and the scoring was erroneous and inconsistent.

He revoked the recommendation of the contract, Clark said, and sent it back to the supply chain management committee.

That committee sent it back to the goods and services procurement advisory board which, in turn, sent it back to the tender evaluation committee. Clark said the tender evaluation committee then came back with the same recommendation which they said they had come to on a different basis.

Again the consortium noted irregularities and sent an appeal to the city manager three weeks ago.

Clark said on Wednesday that they were awaiting a response.