DEPARTMENT UNAWARE OF R206 TRANSPORT PROBE: DAILY DISPATCH

THE Office of the Public Protector yesterday said its investigation into the disputed R206-million Eastern Cape scholar transport tender will be completed in six months’ time.

In the meantime, thousands of kids will still be transported to and from school by the department of transport.

“The investigation is already under way and is expected to be finalised by March 2012,” Kgalalelo Masibi, spokeswoman for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, said.

While Masibi did not respond to the Daily Dispatch’s follow-up questions about what would happen to scholar transport at the time of going to press, transport spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said it would be business as usual.

In fact, he added, the department was not even aware that the controversial R206-million tender was now the subject of a probe.

“At this stage we cannot comment further because the matter is before the Bhisho High Court,” Kumbaca added.

The probe into the scholar transport tender comes after DA MPL Veliswa Mvenya asked the provincial Office of the Public Protector to investigate the controversial tender in July.

This was after the department had confirmed it awarded the tender to One Future Development 46 without going through a bidding process, which is normal when a tender is worth more than R500 000.

Since the awarding of the tender, Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu, acting head of department Linda Salie and One Future Development 46 have been taken to court by 87 service providers.

The service providers want the Bhisho High Court to set aside and review the awarding of the 18-month tender.

They also claim the awarding of the tender was unlawful because One Future Development 46, an entity comprising bus and taxi operators, did not have a tax clearance when it won the tender.

In a letter to Mvenya dated August 23, the Office of the Public Protector’s Eastern Cape representative, advocate Nomsa Thomas, said: “Kindly note that government institutions and agencies must be notified of an intention to institute a civil claim within six months of the date on which the plaintiff becomes aware of the debt.”

Mvenya yesterday expressed dismay at the letter and said she had hoped the process would be finalised sooner.

“They did not give me hope. It does not have a sense of urgency,” she said.

“I did not expect this higher office to give me a time-frame of this nature because there is taxpayers’ money that is involved. I had hoped that when there are big amounts involved, it would do an urgent invest she said. — mayibongwem@