File picture: Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters.
File picture: Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters.

R6.7m PPE contract cancelled because it ‘missed deadline by an hour’

Time of article published Sep 6, 2020

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Johannesburg - A businessman has taken the Limpopo Department of Education to court after it cancelled his R6.7m personal protective equipment (PPE) contract, allegedly because MEC Polly Boshielo was “angry” over the one-hour delivery deadline miss.

Delton Makubane said the department terminated the contract awarded to his company, Mhlekazi Group of Companies, even though he had informed relevant officials about possible late delivery every step of the way.

Makubane said his company was initially given 24 hours to supply more than 7 000 digital thermometers before the LDOE withdrew the appointment letter long after the PPE had arrived at the warehouse in Seshego near Polokwane. Mhlekazi was awarded a R6 702 059.50 contract to supply 7 750 infrared thermometers at a cost of R887 a unit, according to an appointment letter signed by the LDOE’s acting head of department, Onica Dederen, on June 29.

“This appointment will be terminated if delivery cannot be made on 30th June, 2020 at 16:00 (4pm), as per the specification and your quotation,” wrote Dederen.

Makubane said the department later moved the delivery date to July 4, saying it would be impossible to receive the stock because its offices remained closed due to Covid-19.

However, when the delivery truck arrived at around 5pm on Saturday, July 4, as agreed, Simon Kalushi Moela, the official assigned to receive the consignment, said the consignment must first be cleared with the deputy director-general for schools and the district, Matthews Mhlongo.

“On the 4th, when the consignment was about to be collected, I told them that there was a bit of delay.

“At 5pm, when the consignment was in Polokwane, the department was saying ‘no, we can no longer receive your stock’,” Makubane said.

“The first person to be called was Mr Moela. He said ‘please call Mr Mhlongo’. When he was called, he said ‘no, the MEC (Boshielo) is angry’. So we can no longer receive the stock. The following day, on Sunday, I went to the warehouse. When I called the supply chain manager, Mr Kekana, he said ‘you, Mhlekazi, no, we no longer want to hear anything (from you)… we were waiting for you yesterday. When I called, you kept on saying you were coming, but you never came…’

“I was, like, but we came, and we arrived still on time, around five. He said ‘the matter now is with the HOD, we have withdrawn your services’. I then said what do we do with the stock now because it’s here. He said ‘no, we have appointed a new service provider’. I then asked how do you appoint a new service provider when I was here and am still here. That’s why I have taken them to court.”

Makubane said he later checked his emails and found that indeed Kekana had sent him a termination notice at 8.05pm on July 4 – three hours after the delivery truck reached the warehouse.

“Kindly note that your company has failed to deliver thermometers despite several reminders and commitments made, with the latest undertaking to deliver today on the 4th July 2020, but all in vain,” Kekana said.

“Lastly, please note that the department views this matter in a serious light and reserves the right to claim any damages which might have been incurred as a result of your company’s failure to deliver on time should it be necessary to do so.”

Mhlongo confirmed receiving a call from Makubane on July 4, but denied ever saying the stock could not be accepted because Boshielo did not want it anymore.

“I hate people who like blackmailing other people,” Mhlongo said.

“Nothing about the MEC. We never spoke about any other person. To me, he was just pleading if I can’t assist to reverse the cancellation. This other thing of saying Moela called me is nonsense because I had nothing to do with what was going on. I don’t work in the supply chain, and I was not receiving the goods.”

Mhlongo added that Makubane “called me shortly before 8pm” after receiving the termination letter. However, a screenshot of Makubane’s calls on July 4 shows that he called Mhlongo at 18:07 (6:07pm).

Kekana’s termination notice email was sent at 20:05 (8:05pm).

Boshielo denied any involvement in the matter, saying she was not even aware that Makubane had been awarded the contract in the first place.

“How do I feature? No, he must speak about the people he was discussing the matter with.

“The way he is putting it… it means I wouldn’t have given him the contract in the first place because he’s not my person. I would have said, not this one, my person is that one. But he got the contract fairly and squarely. What I am told is that there were delivery issues and logistical problems and he has gone to court,” Boshielo said.

Moela referred all enquiries to the department, saying “I am not allowed to answer questions”.

Tidimalo Chuene, the spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Education, confirmed that Mhlekazi had been awarded a R6.7m PPE contract but declined to comment further.

“There are serious factual disputes in respect of the following allegations… the department is not in position to comment since (1) the matter is a subject of litigation commenced by the company in question: (a) Question two (2) and three (3) relating to delivery time frames.

“(b) Question four (4) relating to contract termination. (c) Question five (5) and six (6) concerning the alleged involvement of the two (2) departmental officials.

“The name of the replacement company has been published on the National Treasury website for ease of reference,” Chuene said.

Sunday Independent

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