Mpumalanga provincial legislature secretary has, again, refused to take action against an executive manager implicated in what appears to be an illegal tender bid adjudication meeting.
This, after the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) requested legislature secretary, Linda Mwale, to take action against corporate services executive manager, George Mthimunye, after he allegedly unduly influenced the awarding of the tender for the installation of an audiovisual system in the legislature chamber.
The case emanates from a transcript of a recording, which emerged during the internal disciplinary hearing of former acting secretary of the legislature, Josiah Silinda.
The transcript of the meeting, held on 16 March 2015, has been accepted as part of the record at Silinda’s hearing, and it gives a detailed account of the discussions at the secret meeting that Mthimunye held at the premises of Pro Sound, a Johannesburg based audiovisual solutions company.
Technical Director for Pro Sound, Mark Malherbe, confirmed that the meeting did take place, but said he was unaware at the time that it was improper to discuss the issuing of the tender.
NEHAWU’s Isaac Mahlangu showed Ziwaphi a copy of the transcript as well as a letter in which he asked Mwale to open a criminal charge against Mthimunye, who is a key witness in Silinda’s disciplinary hearing.
“Your main witness on this charge is/was one Mr George Mtimunye, who waged a spirited campaign to nail our member on the said matter. It however transpired during the trial that in fact, it is the same Mr Mtimunye who actually engaged in corrupt activities in influencing the said tender, namely, he attended an illegal meeting in Johannesburg to discuss the tender with a certain bidding company, and agreed that he will use his influence as a chair of the Bid Adjudication Committee to deliver the contractor.”
“You are now therefore aware of the said meeting which Mr Mtimunye attended.
This then places a duty on you, in terms of section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act no 12 of 2004, to report the alleged offence to any police official,” reads Mahlangu’s letter.
At the time of the meeting, Mthimunye was the chairperson of the legislature’s Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC).
The transcript also shows that another legislature employee, Thabo Pienaar, was part of the meeting. Pienaar was in the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC), for the same tender.
The Johannesburg meeting decided that the tender be awarded to one of the bidding companies, called Execubed, who’s bidding price was the highest, about R16 million.
“… we are then saying there are top two bidders which is Shelhard and Execubed, but Execube had followed the specifications to the (letter) and therefore the preferred bidder for ourselves is Execubed on the basis of specifications that they followed to the (letter),” reads a statement attributed to Mthimunye during the meeting.
Shelhard was one of the bidding companies, whose bid was based on an audiovisual system called DCN, while the legislature was interested in a system called media matrix, which is intellectual property of Pro Sound.
According to a source within the legislature, who spoke on condition of anonymity, other members of the Bid Adjudication Committee refused to sign the report which declared Execubed as the winning bidder.
Mwale has suspended one of the BAC members, Hlanganani Nkosi, and has since dismissed Pienaar from work.
Throughout the Johannesburg meeting, Mthimunye is quoted as saying that he’s talking directly to legislature speaker, Thandi Shongwe, about the tender, even though Silinda was the accounting officer of the legislature at the time.
Two days after NEHAWU had asked Mwale to report Mthimunye’s alleged illegal meeting, Mwale responded to the union that he found no wrong doing when he “interrogated” the transcript, but not Mthimunye or any of the people who were part of the meeting.
“Kindly be advised that the said transcript was presented at the hearing of Mr SS Sanyane with the same allegation. The contents of the transcript were interrogated and no wrongdoing by Mr G Mthimunye was found,” reads Mwale’s response to NEHAWU.
Sanyane (Sello) is the suspended chief financial officer of the legislature.
Legislature spokesperson, Zamagambu Memela-Gamede failed to respond to a detailed media enquiry regarding the allegations against Mthimunye, she instead issued a generic statement.
“As the Legislature we once more note your media enquiry regarding the allegations seemingly levelled (sic) against one of the executive managers in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature. As the Legislature we are prepared to investigate and conduct a disciplinary hearing against any official in the employ of the Legislature as long as we have facts, supporting information and witnesses to assist us in dealing with any cases,” reads Memela-Gamede’s statement.
According to information seen by Ziwaphi, the legislature eventually issued the tender to the company with the lowest bidding price, Bakhusele, after Silinda refused to sign an appointment letter for Excubed.
During the Johannesburg meeting, it emerged that the company with the lowest bid, Bakhusele was disqualified on the basis that it was also involved in sanitation and engineering, Mthimunye is recorded in the transcript as having ridiculed the company for its involvement in sanitation.
“Here I am talking of people who are implementing audio and video system. I am not talking about sanitation and engineering. I have done that work for 18 years,” reads the transcript.
Ziwaphi has since discovered that the legislature cancelled Bakhusele’s contract. The legislature’s website shows that they then appointed the company that developed the specifications, and at whose premises the meeting was held.
It is not the first time that the legislature had failed to take action against Mthimunye. Last year the legislature also refused to take action against Mthimunye for an alleged sexual harassment case. Instead the legislature entered into what appears to be an illegal deal, which included the placement of the victim into a more lucrative position in an apparent attempt to buy her silence.
Silinda’s case and those of a number of other legislature officials are continuing.