Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office has instituted a preliminary probe into a R4.5-million tender won by a company whose owner allegedly met privately with an official at a state-owned entity before getting the contract to complete erosion protection structures in Buffels River, Laingsburg, in the Western Cape.
In the meantime, the Western Cape Ministry of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, MEC Beverley Schäfer, has asked the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (Casidra) to investigate the allegations made against it.
Oupa Segwale, acting spokesperson for Mkhwebane’s office, confirmed to City Press that a complaint was received from Cheslin Schreeders, owner of Cheslyn Transport and Projects (Pty) Ltd and partner in LC Joint Venture, on March 27.
Schreeders, whose LC Joint Venture did not win the tender, lodged a complaint against Casidra and Meyer Beton, the company which won it in February.
In his complaint to Mkhwebane and Schäfer’s office, Schreeders alleged that Casidra’s senior project manager: technical Jacques Swanepoel met privately with Meyer Beton owner, Nollie Meyer, on November 6 2018 following an open meeting with 10 bidders on Rondekop farm in Western Cape.
Schreeders said this was “something incredible and disturbing” and happened after the meeting adjourned between bidders and Swanepoel.
“Mr Swanepoel and the successful tenderer of the project had a private meeting on site,” he said.
However, a representative of Meyer Beton, R Kingon, has denied any wrongdoing in the awarding of the tender.
“Everything was above board,” he said before cutting the call.
At the time of publication, Meyer Beton had not responded to emailed questions and Nollie Meyer had not responded to requests for comment sent on social media.
Segwale said the preliminary investigation, which would be completed by the end of this month, would determine whether a full-scale investigation was necessary.
Schäfer’s spokesperson Bianca Capazorio said Schäfer has referred the matter to the provincial forensic investigative unit.
“The ministry takes any allegations of irregularity very seriously. The unit has however advised that, as Casidra is a Public Finance Management Act schedule 3D provincial government business enterprise, the board is the accounting authority, and the board ought to attend to the matter by virtue of its duties and responsibilities in terms of chapter 6 of the act.”
Capazorio said Schäfer had contacted Casidra’s board chairperson Ainsley Moos to formally request that an investigation be undertaken.
She said it was unclear at this stage how long the investigation would take place.
“While we wish for a speedy resolution, we would also want the investigation to be done thoroughly,” Capazorio said.
The Casidra board, through Moos, confirmed that Schäfer had asked the board to investigate allegations of irregular conduct in the awarding of a tender.
“The board has requested its audit and risk committee to launch an investigation where after the outcome will be communicated to the board as well as Minister Schäfer. The board views the allegations in a serious light. Since the audit and risk committee has just given the first few steps in conducting the investigation, it is at this early stage not possible to say how long the investigation will take to deliver an outcome. We are aware that it is better to have an outcome rather sooner than later but with due regard for all relevant procedures and processes,” Moos said.
Schreeders submitted the complaints after LC Joint Venture’s had appealed to Casidra about the awarding of the tender to Meyer Beton in March.
The appeal was rejected.
Casidra spokesperson Experience Matshidiso said the appeals committee found that “no material evidence was provided” to support Schreeders’ claims.
“As part of the appeals’ process, the claims made by Mr Schreeders regarding the conflict of interest with Mr Swanepoel were interrogated. Two other people present at the site meeting have made statements confirming that no separate meeting took place,” Matshidiso said. He said they viewed Schreeders’ “misrepresentations and regrettable statements” in a very serious light.
“The contract was awarded in an open and transparent manner, and in line with supply chain management regulation,” Matshidiso said. But, Schreeders said there was additional evidence that he had submitted to Mkhwebane and Schäfer’s office. This included an affidavit signed on April 7 by businessman Nigel Cupido of SHC Civils and Maintenance, claiming to have witnessed Swanepoel’s meeting with Meyer.
In the affidavit, seen by City Press, Cupido said: “After the said meeting [with bidders] was closed by Mr Swanepoel, he had a separate meeting with Mr Nollie Meyer of Meyer Beton. The content of the discussion is not known to me, but I can only derive that Mr Meyer received an advantageous pointers from Mr Swanepoel as Mr Meyer had been very successful with Casidra tenders in the last 20 years.”