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Not awarding tenders could ultimately lead to legal action taken by the industry

Deon van Zyl, Chairperson, WCPDF.

By Deon van Zyl, Chairperson, Western Cape Property Development Forum

As South Africa’s infrastructure falls apart, the economic havoc being wrecked due to the continued non-awarding of tenders across all spheres of government continues unabated.

And indeed, the public at large – desperate for service delivery – seems to be unaware of the genesis of the lack of such delivery: in other words, the public sector procurement bottleneck that now impacts on the whole of our society.

Of great concern is the fact that the media has not yet latched on to the inability of all spheres of government to procure fixed capital projects and related professional services in a transparent and efficient manner.

Also at fault is the construction and consulting disciplines who dare not raise their proverbial heads above the parapet to ask: “But, really, WHY?” when tenders are cancelled due to the very real fear of being blacklisted or side-lined by those same departments issuing the tenders. Being formally blacklisted is a thing; it happens. And these days, it is a topic that takes up 50% of our monthly WCPDF management committee meetings as we seek ways in which to alleviate the highly problematic and costly situation for those of our members still brave enough to even attempt to tender.

In our July newsletter, we noted that the City of Cape Town had cancelled a tender to do with the design and construction of IRT facilities, the only explanation for the cancellation being that it was “… in accordance with clause 13(1) of the Preferential Procurement Regulations, 2017”. What on earth does this mean? And how do we gleam any useful knowledge from a message like that when resubmitting new tenders? Patently, compliance supersedes service delivery.

This past month, the WCPDF yet again received notification that the Western Cape Government cancelled Tender S061/19 in respect of the much-anticipated new Klipfontein Hospital in Manenberg with the only explanation given being that this was “… due to concerns were [sic] raised by National Treasury”.

And let us not forget the District Six professional services tender cancelled earlier this year by National Government’s Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. In that instance, the only explanation given to the 37 consortia from across the country, which had spent millions on the compilations of their tender submissions, was that not even one of the submissions “complied” with the “two envelope” submission process – a factor which many of our own members who submitted tenders strongly refute, having themselves followed the application process to the letter.

The WCPDF has already gone so far as to seek legal counsel on the matter of cancelled tenders, with investigations into possible PAIA and PAJA applications and even class-action lawsuits being laid against officials whose departments continually cancel tenders. The jury is still out on the best course of action to take but take action of some nature we must, particularly as infrastructure countrywide continues to disintegrate thanks to this ongoing government paralysis.

Indeed, in a time of ‘audit compliance’ when government across all spheres claims to being committed to rooting out “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” in its own ranks, it needs to interrogate why it is demanding the private sector to engage in the same “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” in the endless and very costly compilation of tender submissions which it clearly has no real intention of awarding.

Will it take a boycott of all government tenders for government to take notice that its procurement system is not working?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Property Wheel.