THE controversial multimillion-rand municipal automatic meter-reading deal was tailor-made so that only the winning bidder, Unique Mbane, could qualify, according to a secret report contained in the Kabuso annexures.
In August 2007, then municipal manager Graham Richards wrote a report for then mayor Nondumiso Maphazi which listed a string of concerns regarding the implementation of the costly AMR project, spearheaded by Maphazi’s predecessor, Nceba Faku.
The company which landed the pilot project for the installation of 300 meters was Unique Mbane, headed by Faku’s friend, Yusuf Jeeva.
Richards explained in his report that specifications listed in the tender, which Unique Mbane won, were based on the 300-meter pilot project which the company had been chosen to undertake.
“The experience gained during the pilot project formed the basis of the technical requirements for the specification. Certain of these features … were features of the pilot system developed in conjunction with Unique Mbane.
“It is accordingly not surprising that Unique Mbane’s offer was found to be the only compliant one,” Richards wrote.
“In retrospect, it may very well be contended that this process did not comply adequately with the constitutional principles applicable to procurement.”
Just days before Unique Mbane’s contract to supply AMRs to the municipality was about to expire in March this year, then acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba announced that the city would be purchasing a further 2000 AMRs from Unique Mbane in a deal worth almost R4-million, but which has not come to fruition.
Municipal spokesman Ongama Mtimka said yesterday that “the contract to supply the 2000 meters was effective from February 23 to March 31 [the last day of Unique Mbane’s contract] and has therefore lapsed”.
“Any other procuring of further units from any service provider would need to comply with the supply chain management policy [and go out to tender],” Mtimka said.
The extension to the company’s contract came despite an internal letter last year by municipal meter division technical manager Willem van Jaarsveld, which highlighted the high failure rate of the meters.
The 12% failure rate over 1.2 years was far above the 0.05% failure rate over 15 years experienced with other electronic meters, he said.
Richards’s report to Maphazi quoted a 2005 mayoral resolution that “any extension to [the 300 meters] be subjected to 100% technical compliance and 100% reliability with the relevant [municipal] system”. – Brian Hayward email@example.com