Suspect tender award

Former councillor given contract to fix sea wall

A questionable contract award by Ndlambe Municipality which resulted in a botched job going nearly R200,000 over price has been highlighted by the Kenton-on-Sea Ratepayers Association (Kosra).

Picture: Kenton-on-Sea Ratepayers Association

The municipality put out a tender to repair the retaining wall at Middle Beach, Kenton, late last year after the wall was damaged by high seas.

A contractor was awarded the job and according to Kosra, “numerous errors were made, resulting in large amounts of work being required to be redone”.

Suspecting the contractor was unqualified, Kosra used the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) to get documents regarding the tender from the municipality.

Kosra made public its follow-up letter to the municipal manager and director of infrastructural development on March 12.

“Having now read the documents handed to us, I can well understand your reluctance to furnish us with them until you forced to do so by the provisions of Paia,” Kosra chairman George Poole wrote.

From the documents, Kosra found that of the four bidders on the contract, only one, Empumalanga Trust, qualified according to the points criteria in the municipal advert.

In spite of this, the contract was awarded to a non-qualifying company, Lutiwell, whose sole director is former councillor Zache Ngxingo.

The municipality’s consulting engineer Johan de Wet found in a report dated February 18 that Lutiwell suffered from a lack of construction knowledge and in his view, had under-priced the tender.

Lutiwell had not submitted a methodology statement as requested by the tender documents.

In his tender evaluation report, De Wet identified the tender by Empumalanga Trust as the best solution among all the proposals received.

De Wet stated that Empumalanga Trust had the highest points (85) in contrast with Lutiwell (30). “As the minimum number of points required by the invitation to tender was 80, this alone should have disqualified Lutiwell,” Poole wrote.

In addition to this, De Wet recorded that Empumalanga Trust had undertaken to do the emergency work before December 6 and to complete the project by January 20. “This would have met the requirements to ensure the safety of users of the beach during the holiday period. In contrast, Lutiwell offered no time frame in its tender, and thus, the safety of beach users was not even addressed,” Poole wrote.

De Wet further expressed reservations about Lutiwell’s work in his progress reports.

Kosra established that Lutiwell was paid an extra R195,000 for redoing faulty work, resulting in its actual price being R150,000 higher than the only qualifying tender by Empumalanga Trust.

Of Ngxingo, Poole wrote: “He is well known to us, and we are well aware that he has no construction or engineering experience or expertise – as repeatedly confirmed by Mr De Wet in his reports, and by the poor quality of work performed by him.”

A mysterious “Julius” emerged as an ally of Ngxingo in a meeting about the contract on February 19, which made Poole suspicious, as he wrote, “it is highly likely that this is the same Julius who recently featured prominently in the urgent application to the high court in Makhanda for setting aside the tender awarded also by you in the new RO plant in Port Alfred.”

Poole asked the municipality to reveal the identity of the people who comprised the tender committee and who awarded the tender to Lutiwell, and also for their reasons in doing so.

“We regard the payment for work by the contractor concerned as irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as contemplated in Section 171 of the Municipal Finance Management Act,” he said.

In response to TotT’s queries, municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said: “We have noted the letter. We felt as the municipality it proper to respond to Kosra first as people who requested the information, and people that we were interacting with in the process. It is only after that process that we will be able to engage other role players or stakeholders.”

Ngxingo did not respond to a message left on his cellphone, and TotT’s calls on Wednesday were answered but then disconnected.

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