An aerial picture of the Athlone power station towers. Picture Ian Landsberg

Cape Town - A team headed by the World Bank will help the City of Cape Town work on a development strategy for the Athlone Power Station site, five years after the cooling towers were demolished.

Council last week approved the 2015/2016 budget that included an allocation of R2.3 million for the Athlone Power Station site. The investment will allow the city to pick up on the project, and issue new calls for tenders, after the development was stalled for three years because of an alleged tender scandal.

“The… amount is the first of three years of budget allocation for a professional services tender,” said Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environment and spatial planning.

“The aim of the tender will be to obtain land use rights for development and will include the rezoning of the site, environmental and heritage authorisations and the drafting of a development framework.

“The tender for the technical planning will be advertised shortly. It is expected that an appointment will be made early in the new financial year.”

He confirmed that the site would house a mixed-use development, including residential, commercial, retail and public facilities. A consulting team would be appointed to do the work, while the team headed by the World Bank would work on the development strategy for the site.

The Athlone Power Station precinct project was stalled three years ago when allegations of tender irregularities surfaced. The city launched a high court judicial review of its own decision, taken on October 2012, to award the tender for the provision of professional services for the decommissioning of the Athlone Power Station to Aurecon.

Aurecon had been involved in a pre-feasibility study and contributed to the bid documents for the decommissioning tender. According to court papers, Aurecon was awarded the contract for a pre-feasibility study on the redevelopment of the site in 2008, as a joint venture with ODA. The contract included a compilation of the scope of work for the decommissioning.

Once the study was completed, the tender documents for the professional services for the decommissioning of the Athlone Power Station were prepared. The bid documentation included the scope of work that had been prepared by Aurecon.

Aurecon then put in a bid of R11m to provide the professional services. The city received five other tenders but only Aurecon’s was found to be responsive.

In 2012, ANC councillors cried foul about the awarding of the tender to the same company that had been involved in drafting the scope of work. Mayor Patricia de Lille then appointed Ernst & Young to investigate.

In his judgment of the city’s application for a judicial review, Judge James Yekiso said the probe found numerous “irregularities” by the city’s bid evaluation committee.

He said allowing Aurecon to tender “in circumstances where it was involved in the preparation of the draft scope of work, a significant portion of which became part of the bid specification”, gave Aurecon an unfair advantage.

He said the fact that Aurecon’s bid was not rejected at the outset rendered the procurement process “unfair”.

The city noted in its founding affidavit that none of the irregularities of the forensic investigation involved any fraudulent, dishonest or corrupt conduct by council officials.

Judge Yekiso ordered last April that the city’s award of the tender to Aurecon in 2012 be set aside.

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Cape Argus