Business

Hawks investigate company involved in ICT tenders worth more than R200m

2018-12-05 00:00

Millions of rands involved, but it is alleged the firm that received tenders did not go through the right processes

A company belonging to a Zimbabwean businessperson has come under fire and is being investigated by the Hawks for allegedly being unlawfully awarded a multimillion-rand tender in the struggling North West municipality of Moses Kotane near Sun City.

In addition, the same company allegedly received further work, beyond the initial tender, and payments.

It is alleged that neither projects were awarded by correct tender processes.

Justice Maphosa’s Big Time Strategic Group was awarded a R67.8 million three-year tender for information and communications technology (ICT) allegedly without the proper tender processes being followed in 2014.

This was after it was allegedly irregularly awarded a tender to develop the ICT strategy in the first place.

Less than 10 months into the three-year contract the company was paid more than R70 million and to date allegedly has received more than R200 million.

It is allegedly still billing millions of rands monthly for several services, two employees of the municipality said.

According to documents, seen by City Press, and three sources close to the matter, Big Time was one of five companies that bid for a project to develop an ICT strategy.

But none scored the minimum points required when assessed. The tender was allegedly not advertised again, yet Big Time was awarded it.

The tender was later renewed for a further three years even though it was supposed to be a once-off tender with a skills transfer component.

Big Time was also allegedly paid R1.5 million a week for computer training for Moses Kotane councillors that took place in Pretoria for several months.

This work was allegedly also not put out to tender and wasn’t part of the scope of the initial tender the company was awarded.

Big Time, through its spokesperson Mthokozisi Dube, confirmed the company had supplied the training, which he said was outsourced, to 80 Moses Kotane councillors.

The municipality’s council has 76 members, including 34 ward councillors and 34 proportional representative councillors and traditional leaders.

An opposition councillor in the municipality said laptops were given and promises of training were made. But, the councillor said, they received the laptops only earlier this year.

The company was also allegedly paid R9.3 million for developing a website, which was not part of the scope of its contract. But Big Time denied that it was for a website and said it was for a web application.

“It is a web app with several functions a normal website doesn’t offer,” Dube said.

He could not provide further details on the app, its name or where it could be accessed.

A former employee of the municipality, Auria Sefanyetso, said he had written an affidavit, dated February last year, for the Hawks.

In it he claimed a R3.5 million payment was made to Big Time for work that he did not know about, despite it having been done by the unit he headed.

Speaking to City Press, Sefanyetso confirmed the affidavit and its details on how the payment order authorising the alleged transfer did not have signatures of the correct officials, including his signature.

The Hawks and the municipality have confirmed that investigations are under way.

The Hawks provincial spokesperson, Tlangelani Rikhotso, said the Hawks were investigating several matters at the municipality and further details could not be disclosed now.

The spokesperson of the municipality, Beauty Makganye, said the company was contracted to the municipality until 2020.

“The Hawks are busy with an investigation into this contracted service.

“The municipality is cooperating in the matter and it cannot divulge any information or details of the contract until the investigations are completed,” Makganye said.

“At this stage no further comments will be made which could compromise either the municipality, the service provider or the investigation,” she said.

She did not respond to the list of questions sent to her about the matter.

However, Dube said the Hawks had conducted an investigation and had found nothing amiss.

“The Hawks approached us [Big Time] at some point requesting information around the same issues and we gladly gave it to them. They were satisfied with what they found,” Dube said.

He claimed Big Time had completed the work it had done at the municipality and had handed over the projects.

“We have completed all projects we were contracted to do; the supporting documentation sits with the municipality as it is now the custodian of the projects,” Dube said.

“Presently, there’s no project ongoing, all projects were handed over.”

He referred further questions to the municipality.

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December 9 2018