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24 March 2014 | Will Green
A damning report into the property deal behind the Electoral Commission of South Africa's new headquarters has heavily criticised the procurement process.
The report, by PwC, said the process was not transparent, competitive or cost-effective and went against policy and procedure.
The independent review said as a result of the deal the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would pay at least R20.8 million (£1.2 million) above the market rate in rent over the 10-year term of the lease, while R59.9 million (£3.34 million) had been spent on fittings and furnishings without any tendering process.
This sum included R957,000 (£53,400) spent on brushed steel plant pots, R483,000 (£26,900) on gym equipment, R69,000 (£3,850) on a sound system for the gym and R899,000 (£50,100) on the chief electoral officer’s (CEO) office furnishings.
The report said: “The procurement process followed was not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive, or cost effective and some of the expenditure could have been avoided had reasonable care been taken.”
PwC were asked to investigate the details of the deal following a report by the Public Protector in August 2013 that found a conflict of interest between former CEO and current IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula and Thaba Mufamadi, an MP and chairman of Manaka Property Investments, which owns a 20 per cent stake in Abland, the firm awarded the contract to provide the Commission’s headquarters.
The PwC report said there were “numerous errors made in the process that has resulted in Abland being favoured at the expense of other bidders and in Abland being favoured at the expense of the Electoral Commission”. These flaws included no tender briefing and no detailed tender specification, the normal bid evaluation process not being followed, bid evaluation criteria changed to the benefit of Abland, and that a summary of the 10 bids received “contained numerous errors”.
The report said Tlakula, deputy CEO Norman Du Plessis, and CEO office manager Stephen Langtry “should each be held responsible for the roles they played” in the procurement process.
The National Treasury said the Public Protector recommended it and the IEC commission the report, adding: "The decision on how best to deal with the forensic report, especially any remedial issues arising from it, is the responsibility of the Independent Electoral Commission. So, that being the case, National Treasury will not comment on the report."
Commissioner Terry Tselane, vice chairman of the Electoral Commission, said: "The Commission has accepted the report and will action all matters that require the Commission to act on."