QFS gets Port Alfred RO tender again

DA: we remain convinced that this outcome was set up from the start

Ndlambe Municipality has appointed Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) as the contractor for its sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant project – the same company which was awarded a R100-million tender declared unlawful and overturned by the Grahamstown High Court earlier this year.

Judge Phillip Zilwa found a number of irregularities with the tender, among them that the municipality had 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 municipality had also corrected the QFS bid, by adding maintenance costs of R60-million.

Zilwa found that Ndlambe had fallen foul of the provisions of its own Supply Chain Management policy.

Though the judge said QFS would have to repay the R20m, the company said it was not obligated to.

He found it “shocking and difficult to comprehend” that the municipality had rushed to pay QFS R20-million on May 25, before a written contract had been signed.

Though the judge said QFS would have to repay the R20m, the company said it was not obligated to. That aroused a response from the DA in August, which said if the municipality did not initiate legal action for recovery of the money, the DA would not hesitate to lay criminal charges against the directors of QFS for theft of municipal funds.

The DA had already laid a charge against municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni for his role in the unlawful tender. The investigation is ongoing.

The municipality had to begin the tender process from scratch, and this week announced that a new contractor had been appointed for a 2 megalitre (ML) plant.

After TotT learned that QFS had again been appointed, we asked DA constituency leader MP Kevin Mileham for comment.

The Democratic Alliance notes with concern that Ndlambe Municipality has again awarded the tender for the Port Alfred reverse osmosis plant to QFS

“The Democratic Alliance notes with concern that Ndlambe Municipality has again awarded the tender for the Port Alfred reverse osmosis plant to QFS,” Mileham said.

“While we understand that an independent panel comprising of officials from national and provincial government adjudicated the tender, we remain convinced that this outcome was set up from the start.

“The fact that QFS refused to pay back the R20-million paid in advance for the original tender despite a judgment requiring them to do so, but rather chose to give Ndlambe equipment to that value – and in fact charged Ndlambe an additional R10-million for the equipment – raises enormous questions in our minds, and must surely result in an audit disclaimer for the municipality,” he said.

He said QFS was also responsible for the installation of the problematic Bushman’s River Mouth RO plant, which took nearly a year to get operating at the 3.5ML nameplate capacity.

“Nonetheless, the water crisis in Ndlambe is now critical, and an RO plant must be installed as a matter of urgency. We can no longer afford any delays. The DA will therefore be monitoring this project closely, to ensure that it is completed speedily and on budget.”

TotT asked Ndlambe Municipality for a statement today, providing reasoning for the appointment of QFS, but we have received no response. We also do not know the price of the current project. It is however not the 5ML project envisaged in the original tender.

The municipality said it was anticipated that the plant would be in production by the end of January 2021

In its update on the water crisis on Thursday, the municipality said it was anticipated that the plant would be in production by the end of January 2021. The feasibility of new borehole sites was also being investigated.

Meanwhile the municipality announced a revised water schedule for Port Alfred and Bathurst late on Thursday, which was revised again today, advising that supply will be shut off to the entire Port Alfred for 24-hour periods every second day due to critically low water levels at Sarel Hayward Dam, Port Alfred’s main supply.

“The Sarel Hayward Dam is at a critical 2.6% capacity. This is below the level where water can be pumped from the dam. At present the only water source available to Port Alfred is the central belt boreholes with a pumping capacity of 0.86ML per day. This equates to approximately 6% of average consumption,” the municipal notice states.

“Electrical supply to the East Bank dune pumps was damaged during the recent Eskom outages and repairs are currently being undertaken by CDR Electrical. Once the repairs have been affected, this will increase water supply by 0.3ML per day.”

The municipality said the recently introduced water schedules had assisted in reducing consumption, but limited water capacity has seen the high lying areas struggling to get water.

The Golden Ridge Dam which supplies Bathurst is at 5% capacity, and the schedule there will see Bathurst village shut off every alternate day, and Nolukhanyo on the days in between.

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