A confrontation between SA roads agency, Sanral, and construction companies is looming following the agency’s decision to cancel roadwork tenders to the tune of R18 billion.
Citing irregularities in the awarding of the tenders, the Sanral board this week announced that it has ordered that several contracts be re-advertised. These included the one for roadworks which were due to start on the N3 Ashburton Interchange, near Pietermaritzburg.
However, the forum representing the contractors affected by the Sanral board’s decision have since referred the matter to the National Treasury.
The SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) chief executive, Webster Mfebe, confirmed that the forum has asked the treasury to investigate the cancellation of the contracts.
“Our view is that there are a number of unanswered questions around the Sanral board’s decision
“We want National Treasury to confirm whether the decision of the Sanral board meets the conditions set out in the procurement regulations in terms of the cancellations of projects due to material irregularities,” he said.
While Sanral board’s decision will not affect contractors who are already conducting construction work on the N3 highway near Ashburton, the decision will, however, delay the second phase of the project as the processes of appointing an additional contractor will now have to start from scratch.
Sanral’s management had already identified a preferred bidder for the second phase of the construction at the Ashburton Interchange, but the board ruled that processes which led to the appointment of the contractor were flawed.
According to Sanral board chairperson, Themba Mhambi, who said the road agency would soon reopen the tendering process, the SA road agency management should not have appointed the contractor as one of the bidders had lodged an objection.
“The proactive assurance, which is applicable to tenders above R750 million, and which is conducted by Sanral’s internal audit, established that a bidder was wrongfully disqualified.
“It would be the height of imprudence for the board to allow the awarding of such a tender when the litigation risks from the disqualified bidder are material,” Mhambi said.
Other projects in which the Sanral board ordered the awarding of the tenders to be cancelled include the N2 Wild Coast Mentu Bridge construction and the rehabilitation of the R56 in Matatiele.
Guidelines issued by the board, Mhambi said, were not adhered to when the contracts were awarded several months ago. However, Mfebe said the board should have intervened several months ago if it was concerned that its guidelines were not being adhered to.
“Given the high-profile nature of these projects, it baffles us why, in reporting on these projects, the board did not ensure that its resolution was implemented given that they feel very strongly about it,” he said.
The national treasury has confirmed that it was looking into the matter around the cancellation of the construction tenders.
“National Treasury will be engaging Sanral leadership and an update will be provided in due course,” the department said.