OUTA exposes dubious tender worth R83 million at Gert Sibande TVET College in Mpumalanga

Highly inflated contract for e-learning platform awarded without following proper procurement processes; SIU asked to investigate

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12/12/2023 12:30:20

OUTA exposes dubious tender worth R83 million at Gert Sibande TVET College in Mpumalanga 

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) exposed yet more wrongdoing in the higher education sector, this time at the Gert Sibande TVET College in Mpumalanga. OUTA’s full report into a heavily inflated tender of R83.1 million will be shared with the SIU for further investigation and prosecution. 

“Whistleblowers approached OUTA in 2022 with allegations that funds were mismanaged at Gert Sibande TVET College. They alleged that a contract worth just over R83.1 million was given to a company called Student Hub Online (Pty) Ltd for the provision of an e-learning platform to the college, without following proper procurement processes,” Asavela Kakaza, legal project manager at OUTA, explains. 

As part of OUTA’s investigation into the allegations the organisation submitted a PAIA request for information pertaining to the tender. “While Gert Sibande College did furnish us with some of the documents we requested, we did not receive everything. However, our in-depth investigation into the tender revealed serious procurement irregularities and non-compliance with the supply chain management policies of the college.”

These are some of OUTA’s findings: 

The acting personal assistant to the office of the Principal, Pitso Rathaba, prepared the bid specification documents, despite the supply chain management (SCM) policy of the college which clearly states that the Bid Specifications Committee (BSC) must compile the specifications for all procurement of goods and services before the invitation process.

Although the specification document was signed by Sizwe Hlongwane (the acting IT manager assistant) and Sibusiso Makhubu (data manager) and approved by Molifi Mabe (the acting principal) in his capacity as the accounting officer, it was apparently signed on 4 April 2022 but only prepared on 8 April 2022. This means the specification document was signed before it was prepared.

OUTA also found that the tender was not advertised for 21 days as required by the SCM Policy and relevant Treasury regulations. This is also supported by the Gert Sibande TVET College internal audit checklist. 

Twenty bidders submitted bids for the contract with the average bidding price being R22.5 million. However, Gert Sibande appointed a bidder who quoted an amount which was about 3.5 times the average price at R83.1 million. This even though the college already had an existing online learning platform called Juno which rendered the same services as Student Hub at a cost of R39 000.  

The BEC applied an incorrect Preference Point System (PPS) of 80/20 instead of the 90/10 PPS, which was advertised. The SCM policy also specifically requires that the 90/10 PPS be applied to bids above the rand value of R1 million.  

Student Hub issued an invoice dated 27 July 2022 for an amount of R9.1 million which was subsequently paid by Gert Sibande. It is not clear what the reasons for this payment were because an amount equivalent to the tender amount of R83.1 million was also paid to Student Hub. 

OUTA has shared its findings and report with the Gert Sibande TVET College to afford them a right of reply, but no reply was received.  

“We decided to share the report with the SIU hoping that it will result in a thorough investigation of this tender so that all the implicated parties could be held to account,” Kakaza says.

More information 

Read the full report here.

A soundclip with comment by OUTA’s Legal Project Manager, Asavela Kakaza is here.

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