Anger over Sassa food parcel deal

PREMIUM

Eastern Cape small business owners are outraged that a multimillion-rand South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) food parcel contract will only be awarded to one successful bidder for the whole province.
A briefing on bidding for the four-year tender was shelved on Monday because there was not enough space to accommodate the thousands of SMME owners who turned up at the Sassa offices in Quigney.
The bid invitation documents indicate the contract, which will run from this year until 2023, will be for all nine provinces – but suppliers for three provinces have already been appointed.
Provinces that still need to appoint suppliers are Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.
Asked about the total value of the contract, Sassa Eastern Cape spokesperson Luzuko Qina said the figure cannot be specified.
“The tender is for a four-year period and is needs-based.
“The idea is to establish a database of suppliers who will be rotated as and when there is a need for their services.
“Usually tenders do not specify pricing when advertised otherwise fairness would be compromised because the suppliers must compete on price and functionality,” Qina said
Bulelwa Bakana, an SMME owner, expressed frustration over the way Sassa was handling awarding of the contract.
“They called us to the briefing but their document does not speak to us as SMMEs. They want already established companies.
“We are not getting work and for us to build our capacity, we must start somewhere so we can become like the big companies.”
Buffalo City Metro Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also objected to the process.
The chamber wrote to Sassa stating that the implementation plan of the contract had “elements of corruption”.
The chamber wants to know why Sassa is looking for a single company to implement the work across the province and is also questioning the time- frame for preparing bids – five days instead of the usual 21.
In its letter to Sassa Eastern Cape senior manager Mziwonke Mekuto, the chamber’s Malibongwe Mtuzula said: “After the circus and stampede of the intending bidders gathered at the Sassa East London offices today for a pre-tender briefing meeting where the same tender was officially cancelled by the Sassa officials for the date still to be announced, we decided to formalise our concerns hence this document”.
Mtuzula listed several objections, including that the contract should be unbundled to benefit small businesses in the province.
“It should be structured into regions as follows: The Amathole District Region has about 26 towns and the tender should be structured as such, meaning that there should be 26 contractors appointed for this contract and this should be a similar situation throughout all regions in the province,” the letter suggests.
Mtuzula also calls for the tender closure and submission to be done in the Eastern Cape, not in another province.
“From the tender briefing and tender close, there should be an allowance of 21 days to afford all willing and able bidders to have enough time to prepare,” the letter says.
Qina said that the briefing session for Eastern Cape was postponed due to the disruptive behaviour of some of participants and the rescheduled date will be made public in due course.
“The allegation that Sassa is targeting one supplier is spurious and should be rejected with the contempt it deserves,” he said...

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