23 July 2018

South Africa: City of Cape Town's Foreshore Tender 'Made Potential Corruption Easy' - Deputy Mayor

The tender for Cape Town's Foreshore Freeway Precinct was drafted in such a way that it effectively opened up processes for corruption, Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson has said.

He also expressed concern over the seemingly "cowboy fashion" in which the City's Transport and Urban Development Authority was being run.

Neilson on Sunday added his voice on the Foreshore matter, which has seen serious claims and counter-claims being made between top members of the City of Cape Town's leadership and, most notably, against Mayor Patricia de Lille.

On Monday, Neilson said he planned to meet with De Lille to hear her side of the story on the Foreshore matter and the Transport Development Authority.

His stance on the Foreshore tender has again highlighted deep divisions between those running the City.

De Lille has previously hit back at the volley of allegations against her, saying she had never tried to conceal any corruption.

"In fact, the bulk of the charges concern allegations of highly technical transgressions which do not involve me at all, other than the contention that as the 'boss' of the City, I should be held liable," she said.

Attempts from within the Democratic Alliance and City leadership to oust De Lille have so far resulted in court action - in June the Western Cape High Court set aside the Democratic Alliance's decision to terminate De Lille's party membership for comments she made during a radio interview.

A new motion of no confidence in De Lille is expected to be heard on Thursday.

In July 2016, the request for proposals for the future development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct, which related to unfinished highways, was launched.

But earlier this month, the City of Cape Town announced that the formal request for proposals for the Foreshore Freeway Precinct had been cancelled.

The first stage of the bid evaluation process had been completed in February and, after that, several objections were lodged that questioned the application of evaluation criteria set out in the request for proposals documentation.

After getting legal advice, according to a statement by the City, it was "concluded that a lack of sufficient clarity in the (request for proposals) documentation rendered the evaluation criteria vague".

De Lille on Sunday said this did not mean it was the end of the road for the project, and that it had not been completely cancelled.

The request for proposals would be redrafted.

Neilson, however, on Sunday pointed out what he believed were several flaws in the tender, which related to completing the Foreshore freeways or alternate plans to deal with these.

Social housing aspect and 'ulterior reasons'

"Linked to this was making available to the developer the 6ha of land in and around the freeways for development. The development of the land would have to include a portion of social housing," Neilson said.

Eight bids had been received and had ranged from demolishing the existing freeways, completing theme, or replacing them with tunnels.

"This whole matter could have had a better result if (De Lille) had not so strongly driven a quick fix to a difficult issue, and allowed instead that the road and land issue be separated," Neilson said.

"A solution to resolve both the transport needs of the City and to address the needs of inner-city social housing was never going to work by requiring a developer to achieve both ends with the limited resources of disparate pieces of land. This is so clearly obvious that one can only think that there were indeed ulterior reasons for doing so."

Neilson believed the manner in which the tender had been drafted was in itself problematic.

'Opened to corruption'

"The political problem with the Foreshore tender is that it was drafted so wide, that it enabled a wide interpretation, which is just how processes are opened to corruption," he said.

"The fact is that the Executive Mayor not only supported and championed a tender that was openly problematic, but attempted to hide the problems when they arose.

"Moreover, she has cynically used the issue of social housing to justify her actions, and divert attention away from the real problems of poor, corruptible processes she has attempted to hide."

Neilson had questions, including whether the Foreshore Freeway Precinct tender was deliberately drafted vaguely so that it could be swung in the favour of a particular chosen bidder.

Allegations to that effect had previously been made.

'Other contracts under investigation'

"The key matter here is that we have yet another tender that was issued by the Transport Development Authority that is problematic. Other contracts where there have been problems include the cash management of the MyCiti fares, the payment to Volvo for incomplete buses, and the electric bus tender (currently under investigation)," Neilson said.

"Some of these were the very issues that the Executive Mayor attempted to hide under the carpet, when she stopped the then City Manager reporting allegations around the Commissioner, to Council. The department seems to be run in a cowboy fashion."

Neilson was referring to claims that De Lille had prevented former city manager Achmat Ebrahim from reporting allegations against Transport Development Authority Commissioner Melissa Whitehead to the city council.

In January, Ebrahim - who told De Lille he would be able to defend himself against allegations levelled at him as contained in a report - resigned and Whitehead was suspended.

De Lille has before said that reports of her covering up allegations relating to Whitehead are untrue.

Affidavit containing allegations

Previously, in an affidavit dated November 29, the executive director in her office, Craig Kesson, also made claims about De Lille trying to sweep matters under the carpet.

In his affidavit, Kesson said that a forensics presentation on the MyCiti Bus Stations Tender contract, involving two companies, showed that there was "a multi-million rand loss to the City via the fare system of the MyCiti Bus Service".

However, he claimed that De Lille had not wanted to receive an opinion on this matter "and said that we needed to make the issue 'go away' and that the matter should not reach Council".

Kesson claimed that De Lille had a similar attitude during a September 2017 meeting when it came to allegations relating to the bid evaluation process for the Foreshore Freeway Precinct tender.

His affidavit said that independent consultants, Moore Stephens, who advised the City on tender issues, had criticised Whitehead's conduct.

These consultants, according to Kesson's affidavit, also said that Whitehead had stated during a meeting that a particular bid should be rejected because transport and urban development mayoral committee member Brett Herron, as well as "the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor said they will never accept the... proposal".

'Political campaign'

De Lille had hit back at what she labelled Kesson's "false" disclosures against her, saying these could not be viewed as the actions of a whistleblower, but were instead a criminal offence.

She also said she believed Kesson had leaked information and claims against her to certain politicians, which "is suggestive of a political campaign".

"His affidavit itself does not request any outcome. It is either a politically motivated attempt to embarrass me, or an attempt to contrive protection as a supposed whistleblower," De Lille had said.

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