Tshwane residents are paying three times more for the city’s Wi-Fi operational contract after the administration mysteriously reversed a decision to award the bid to a cheaper supplier.
The City of Tshwane said e-Mbizo Solutions Developers, the initial recommended IT firm, was dropped at the last minute in favour of Ulwembu Business Services on the grounds that e-Mbizo would have used subcontractors for some of the work.
But insiders said this explanation was flimsy.
They said the DA-run city had awarded a controversial multibillion-rand project management contract to GladAfrica, which also used subcontractors.
Documents in City Press’ possession confirm the bid adjudication committee on the Wi-Fi project recommended e-Mbizo for appointment on July 12 and a follow-up special meeting would finalise the process.
But, 14 days later, Ulwembu was announced as the winning bidder.
Records showed that Ulwembu charged between R181 000 and R189 000 for installation and maintenance of the Wi-Fi services per free internet zone of 5km or less to 15km or more; e-Mbizo charged between R53 000 and R61 000 for the same services.
The city approved an average budget of R70 million for the service over each of the next three financial years, ending in 2021.
City Press is in possession of an audio recording in which members of the bid adjudication committee are heard scrambling to remedy discrepancies in Ulwembu’s bid documents, which eventually elbowed e-Mbizo out of the deal.
It was agreed that some of “the highest numbers” that appeared in the documents be regarded as pricing, but those close to the process told City Press the discrepancy was sufficient reason to disqualify Ulwembu.
Tshwane denied there were discrepancies.
City spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the supply chain management rule required that the name of the bidders be read out with the prices received.
“In the case of Ulwembu, there is a note on MBD1 [a separate bid document] that states: ‘Please refer to the pricing tab.’ This is the pricing schedule of the bid itself.”
Bokaba said e-Mbizo’s recommendation for appointment on July 12 was not “formal” as the committee “merely considered the matter and then referred back the recommendation made to the bid evaluation committee to consider the concerns raised”.
The concerns were attended to by the bid evaluation committee, he said. Based on that, a different recommendation was made, he added.
“It needs to be stressed that the bid adjudication committee only makes recommendations to the city manager, who, in his capacity as accounting officer, makes the final award.”
He said that, on July 12, the adjudication committee “noted that the consultant report was not ready and agreed that this item be deferred to a special [meeting] for consideration once the report has been completed”.
In another meeting seven days later, the adjudication committee “thoroughly reviewed the documentation submitted by the tenderers and the consultant’s report”.
It sent the matter back to the evaluation committee to “confirm whether e-Mbizo was evaluated as an individual company or a joint venture [and] how the company scored [high] on company experience when the reference letters submitted were not confirming the relevant experience”.
A re-evaluation was done of all companies, said Bokaba, and the scores were then moderated accordingly.
A new recommendation for the appointment of Ulwembu was then made.
He said “the evaluation process of this particular bid was not based on price only”.