State Capture Inquiry: Govt. tender system in the spotlight

The government tender system came under scrutiny during day two of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

Acting chief procurement officer Willie Mathebula was the first witness, detailing the regulations of the procurement system. He was not expected to implicate any individuals but rather to provide technical evidence on the functionality of the system. 

Mathebula said the system was currently being reviewed with a proposal to set up the office of a tender ombudsman to deal with irregularities.

"We are making provision for a procurement Ombudsman, providing for a cool off period to give people opportunity to raise objections," Mathebula said.

However, he could not provide statistics on contested tenders compared to the total number of tenders issued by government.

Earlier he admitted that the tender processes were intentionally not followed in at least 50 percent of the tenders.

READ: State capture commission Day 1: Everything you need to know

Government is the biggest procurer of goods and services, estimated to be spending R800bn a year.

Mathebula identified the first line of the procurement process as open to abuse as government officials who sit on the specifications committee can tailor make the tender bids to suit individuals.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who heads the commission, admitted to knowing very little on the supply chain process but said it should be protected from corruption.

He expressed concern that tender decisions were done behind close doors and not open to the public.

Mathebula said they opted for the current procurement regime after the state tender board was slow in taking decisions and the process was centralized even for far flung areas.

Tender specifications 'were cooked'

Zondo asked what the chances were of someone detecting unfair drafting of specifications of a tender. 

"It depends on a person's experience or skill to pick up whether tender specifications were cooked," Mathebula responded. 

He said as a procurement officer he has detected a number of instances where the tender specifications "were cooked" and returned them. 

The commission has been adjourned till Friday 09:30 after the witnesses who were scheduled to appear on Wednesday and Thursday asked for a postponement.

When it sits, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas will testify about his meeting with the Gupta family. 

He said he was offered R600 000 cash and R600m later if he accepted to replace Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.

He said the meeting that was concluded at the politically connected Gupta family's mansion in Saxonworld was attended by the eldest brother Ajay Gupta, businessman Fana Hlongwane and former president Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane.

This was weeks before Nene's shock firing in 2015.

READ: State Capture Inquiry: Mcebisi Jonas to take stand on Friday