IN May, the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) announced that a “material conflict of interest” arose in the evaluation of tenders for major road infrastructure projects. The board took the decision to not approve the awards of four tenders valued at R10.6-billion.
Among the cancelled tenders is the Mtentu Bridge, which forms part of the N2 Wild Coast Road Project. Once completed, the bridge will connect four provinces — the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
Explaining the cancellation of the Mtentu Bridge and the R56 Matatiele tenders to officials of the OR Tambo District Municipality in Mthatha, board chairperson of Sanral Themba Mhambi said the decision was taken to ensure compliance with the organisation’s procurement processes.
The Sanral board adopted a resolution in 2020 specifying that consultants involved in the design and development of technical specifications for projects should not be involved in the evaluation of technical submissions by bidders.
The board deemed that the resolution would uphold and enforce proper governance and was an appropriate control measure to prevent collusion, fraud, conflict of interest, misuse of information and corruption.
Previously, design consultants were part of the technical evaluation panel that made recommendations to the bid evaluation committee.
Speaking to the cancellation of the Mtentu Bridge project tender, Mhambi said the same design consultants were involved in the design and the development of technical specifications and in the evaluation of technical submissions of the bidders. No prior approval had been sought from the board to deviate from the resolution.
“A bid that should have been considered as non-responsive because it was not submitted in the prescribed and required format in terms of the specifications was accepted,” he says.
“The specifications included an increase in the scope of works by virtue of additional roads that were originally planned for community development projects to accommodate the 30 percent sub-contracting requirement.
“This resulted in a deviation from the 30 percent sub-contracting requirement, which was done without the requisite board approval, and we found this to be irregular,” says Mhambi.
The same irregularities were discovered in the rehabilitation of the R56 Matatiele project tender.
Mhambi also dispelled confusion that Sanral had cancelled other projects in the Eastern Cape, stating that only the tenders mentioned were cancelled.