Corruption at Gert Sibande TVET College

In 2022, whistleblowers approached OUTA with allegations of mismanagement of funds at Gert Sibande TVET College, in connection with a contract worth R83.114 million which the college awarded to Student Hub Online (Pty) Ltd for the provision of an e-learning platform.

The award allegedly did not follow the proper procurement process.

OUTA submitted an application to the college in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), asking for the documents relating to this tender. Some information was provided but not everything that was requested. OUTA used this information in its investigation.

OUTA findings

  • The acting personal assistant to the college principal, Pitso Rathaba, prepared the bid specification documents. This conflicts with the college's supply chain management (SCM) policy which states that the Bid Specifications Committee (BSC) must compile the specifications for all procurement of goods and services before the invitation process.

  • Although the specification document was signed by the acting IT Manager Assistant, Sizwe Hlongwane, and the Data Manager, Sibusiso Makhubu, and approved by the Acting Principal, Molifi Mabe, in his capacity as the accounting officer, it was apparently signed on 4 April 2022 but prepared on 8 April 2022, indicating it was signed before it was prepared.

  • The tender was not advertised for 21 days as required by the SCM Policy and relevant National Treasury regulations. This is also supported by the Gert Sibande TVET College Internal Audit Checklist.

  • Twenty bidders submitted bids with the average bidding price being R22.541 million. However, the college appointed a bidder who quoted an amount of R83.114 million, which was about 3.5 times the average bid price.

  • The college already had an online learning platform, called Juno, which rendered the same services as Student Hub was to provide, with monthly payments of R39 000. Thus the service was duplicated.

  • The Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) applied the incorrect preference point system (PPS), using the 80/20 PPS (80% based on price, 20% on BBBEE level) instead of the 90/10 PPS which was advertised.

  • Student Hub issued an invoice dated 27 July 2022 for an amount of R9.112 million, which the college paid. It is not clear what the reasons for this payment were because an amount equivalent to the tender amount of R83.114 million was also paid to Student Hub.

Further action

On 5 December 2023, OUTA shared its report and findings with Gert Sibande TVET College to afford it the right of reply, but no response was received.

On 12 December 2023, OUTA shared the report and findings with Special Investigating Unit (SIU) with the hope that a thorough investigation would be done on this tender so that all the implicated parties could held to account. The SIU has advised that it will peruse the OUTA’s report to determine whether it should request an expansion of the scope of its investigation into the college which was proclaimed in December 2023 (see here).

"A culture of transparency demands open governance and the disclosure of information except in exceptional circumstances."

– The South African Human Rights Commission, on the pervasive failure by public bodies to honour PAIA requests for information from the public, in its annual PAIA report for 2019/20.

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