DA calls on SIU to investigate Ndlambe Municipality’s unlawful tender for RO plant

The DA in the Eastern Cape today called for the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to be tasked with investigating the controversial and unlawful tender awarded to Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) for a seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant in Port Alfred.

As reported in Talk of the Town, the Grahamstown High Court has set aside the tender, saying that the conduct on the part of the Ndlambe Local Municipality was beset with problems and irregularities and ran afoul of proper procurement procedure requirements.

The DA’s shadow MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Vicky Knoetze, MPL, said in a statement today: “I have now written to Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, to request that he refers the matter to the SIU for investigation as a matter of urgency.

“I have also written to the MEC of Cogta, Xolile Nqatha, to ensure that steps are taken in terms of consequence management and that the municipal manager be suspended until such time as the investigation by the SIU is complete.”

MEB Energy (Pty) Limited took Ndlambe, QFS, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) as well as Cogta to court over what it believed to be an unlawful tender process.

The company highlighted further irregularities in Ndlambe’s documents annexed to their answering affidavits.

These were noted by Judge Phillip Zilwa in his judgment handed down on Tuesday.

The municipality initially invited bids in November 2019 for a 2 megalitre (ML) RO plant to extract water from the Kowie River and produce drinking quality water (SANS 241 Class A). At that stage Ndlambe had received R20-million from Cogta, and had made a further request to the DWS for an additional R80-million.

It was envisaged that in the event of the request for the R80m being approved, the project could be upgraded from a 2ML to a 5ML plant.

In a letter sent by MEB to Ndlambe on December 11, the company sought confirmation that the mandatory site for the emergency 2ML RO plant and a future upgrade to 5ML was on the banks of the Kowie River and not at the waste water treatment works (WWTW). The municipality confirmed the site location was on the banks of the Kowie River.

In evaluating the bids, some tenderers were excluded for non-compliance, leaving only MEB and QFS.

During the tender process the municipality was granted the additional R80m it had requested.

From then on, the timeline of events outlined in the judgment reveal that the municipality dealt exclusively with QFS, negotiating with them about a blended water option using waste water and seawater, instead of just SWRO, with the site changed to the WWTW.

The municipality also asked QFS to submit an amended bid, long after bids had closed, and the paper trail of correspondence revealed inexplicably varying amounts for the price of the project.

The judge also found it “shocking and difficult to comprehend” that the municipality had rushed to pay QFS R20m on May 25, even before the written contract pertaining to the tender had been signed by the parties, which only occurred on May 29.

He also said it was puzzling that the municipality had concluded the contract with QFS while the matter was still before the court.

“The Democratic Alliance wants assurances that the R20m has been paid back into the coffers of the municipality by QFS,” Knoetze said.

“Corruption and maladministration are rife at Eastern Cape municipalities. The DA will fight to ensure that public funds are spent with complete transparency and accountability and that value for money is achieved.”

High court sets aside Ndlambe’s RO plant tender

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