Herman Mashaba
A multimillion-rand  “irregularly awarded” institutional review tender in Joburg has taken a new twist, with claims of a R3million bribery cloud hanging over the winning bid.

Allegations are that Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba was “repeatedly” warned that a meeting he hosted in July with Neo Africa Solutions JV - the company which a forensic report found had irregularly received the tender and unduly benefited from millions of rand - should never have taken place, as no agreements had been entered into.

It has also emerged that Mashaba failed to heed warnings that Vivien Natasen - the director of Neo Africa - was implicated in a 2012 Corruption Watch report involving the tender.

The mayor allegedly covered up gross irregularities in the contract after the forensic report, conducted by Joburg’s crime and corruption-busting unit and handed to Mashaba in March, found the winning bidder charged more than R21m more than the cheapest bid, and over R14m more than the budget cap for the contract.

The Star spoke to three sources who attended the July meeting, where concerns were raised over the risk of potential litigation to the city regarding the alleged irregular tender.

Sources said Sharon Peetz, the former member of the mayoral committee for economic development, raised the alarm about Natasen at the meeting about the Neo Africa director being accused in 2012 of trying to bribe Gauteng public officials with R3m.

Natasen emphatically denied the claims at the time and questioned the authenticity of a recording in which he allegedly tried to solicit a bribe.

Sources said Mashaba knew about the concerns raised over the illegality of the meeting, including the bribery cloud hanging over Neo Africa, but that "he did not adhere to the warnings”.

“When the meeting was concluded, that was when it was stated that it was too late to backtrack. If we go back to the drawing board and re-advertise the tender, it was going to take too long and we were going to miss the deadline."

City spokesperson Tanya Heydenrych said Mashaba was unaware of any irregularities in the tender, as the Municipal Finance Management Act prohibited politicians from being involved in supply-chain processes.

“The allegations relating to Mr Natasen and Neo Africa were considered, subsequent to the first meeting.

"Upon further investigation, it was determined that the grounds on which a tender could be voided relate only to criminal convictions.

“Had the city attempted to void the award based solely on the untested allegations, the city could have been successfully litigated against and incurred wasteful expenditure,” Heydenrych pointed out.

In an affidavit, which The Star has seen, Mashaba said he had been advised by Christo Marais, who chaired the bid specification committee, that the tender process “was con- cluded in accordance with the city’s procurement policy and applicable laws”.

Heydenrych conceded that Mashaba was disappointed with how the tender process was handled.

She reiterated that the mayor “was at all times led to believe - incorrectly - that the processes followed were compliant with our policies, when in fact they were proven to be deeply flawed”.

The task of determining culpability, Heydenrych added, had been assigned to the council's municipal public accounts committee.

“The multiparty coalition have expressed their support for the process that has been initiated to deter- mine the nature and culpability of the alleged wrong- doing.

"Ultimately, the multi-party coalition supports the high degree of transparency and accountability which has informed the approach of the executive in this matter,” the spokesperson said.

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