Our hands are clean, says MEC about tender supplier accusations

The Hout Bay Civic Association (HBCA) has accused Western Cape Finance, Tourism and Agriculture MEC Alan Winde of failing to ensure his accounting officer requested National Treasury to blacklist Top N Nos Service CC from government tenders.

This follows a report in the Sentinel last week in which the association condemned the awarding of a tender to Top N Nos to clean toilets at Llandudno and Hout Bay beaches (“Civic frowns on cleaning firm’s collusion”, Sentinel, March 3).

But Mr Winde has hit back, saying the department had moved to restrict the service provider, which would prevent them from doing business with the state. In addition, the department had not secured any services from the service provider since 2013.

In a statement released on Tuesday this week, the HBCA said the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDA) had a responsibility to request that Top N Nos be blacklisted.

“The failure by the WCDA to put forth this request to National Treasury leaves the Hout Bay Civic Association flabbergasted. It is a major concern that the department remained silent after media reports in which the attorney of Top N Nos lied by stating Top N Nos was blacklisted by the Western Cape provincial government,” it said.

In a media report, dated November 24 last year, Wayne Hufkie, an attorney representing Top N Nos and another company, Zara Cleaning Services, was quoted as saying that both firms had been blacklisted by the Western Cape provincial government and their business had declined as a result of not getting this government work.

However, the association said this was “a blatant lie”.

“In our view, (this) was only stated so the tribunal could be lenient. The business still continues to apply for and is awarded government tenders and has cleaning contracts in various government buildings. This is unethical and shows to what length the business would go to for a tender.”

On March 18 2014, the Competition Commission received a complaint alleging that Top N Nos colluded with two other firms when applying for a tender to provide cleaning services at the provincial Department of Agriculture’s Stellenbosch offices.

The commission’s investigations found the respondents had agreed on how to price various items in the pricing schedule which they submitted when bidding.

Top N Nos pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined R36 935.

The association said “on the advice of the MEC” it had made an enquiry to National Treasury and was told it had received a complaint about the company from an “anonymous concerned service provider regarding the same matter, and it was referred to the Western Cape treasury to investigate in January 2017.

“The Western Cape treasury has recently confirmed that the investigation has been finalised and feedback will be provided to National Treasury. National Treasury has not received any request from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture requesting for Top N Nos Services CC and Zara Cleaning Services to be loaded on the database of restricted suppliers.

“Alan Winde as the political head of treasury and agriculture must explain why they failed to request the business be blacklisted by National Treasury. This failure allows for corruption to continue and businesses to think they are untouchable when they steal from the people of this province and country. Provincial treasury must make their finding public.”

In response for comment by the Sentinel, Mr Winde said in the wake of the ruling by the Competition Tribunal, the department moved to restrict both service providers, which would prevent them from doing business with the
state.

“To this end, we were guided by National Treasury Supply Chain Management Instruction Note 3 of 2016/17, which sets out guidelines for the restriction of suppliers. Based on the guidelines in this instruction note, the department sent the matter for legal opinion to our Legal Services with regard to possible restriction,” he said.

“The legal opinion advised that the Audi alterm artem rule as prescribed by Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000, was applicable. The Audi alterm partem rule sets out that the other party is afforded an opportunity to respond. Thus, the department was advised that it would have to afford both service providers the opportunity to state why they should not be restricted.”

He said the department’s officials considered and accepted the legal opinion and had drafted a letter to the suppliers which would be sent off to them short-
ly.

“Following receipt of registered mail, both parties will have 14 days to state why they should not be placed on the list of the National Treasury’s restricted suppliers. We have further not secured any services from either service provider since 2013.

“This case marked one of the first instances where a government department had reported allegations of corruption to the Competition Commission, which was newly established at the time. In this way, the Western Cape government set the precedent on rooting out corruption. We remain firm-
ly committed to ensuring that we partner with businesses who operate ethically and responsibly.”

Queries sent to Mr Hufkie’s office had not been responded to at the time of going to press.