Businesses frustrated with KZN agri-department’s tender process

Agricultural input and services companies in KwaZulu-Natal have expressed frustration at the way in which tender processes are implemented by the KZN Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.

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One complaint has been levelled against the procedure followed for transactions with a value greater than R500 000. National Treasury guidelines stipulate that for transactions valued at between R10 000 and R500 000, government departments are required to invite and accept written quotes from registered prospective suppliers. For procurement above R500 000, they are required to invite competitive bids.

A businessman, who did not wish to be named, said the department was not following the bidding process for work worth more than R500 000 for infrastructure services (such as irrigation, poultry and piggery houses, fencing and pack houses) and input supplies (such as chemicals, fertiliser and seed).

“Once the department has compiled its approved supplier database, selected suppliers are invited to quote on bids over R500 000; they make awards beyond public scrutiny. This creates greater opportunity for corruption,” he said. An input supplier said, “They select three or four suppliers from their approved list to quote on a job. Mostly one doesn’t hear from them after submitting a quote. You don’t know who won the quote or at what price.”

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Acting departmental chief financial officer, Eckard Habermann, said government procurement policies and guidelines were followed. However, he added, “The aim of the process is to fast-track service delivery and avoid advertising and tendering for each individual project above the R500 000 threshold.”

He said that the tender was advertised and bid documents distributed. “Bids are evaluated by the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) and the Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC). Companies meeting the criteria are placed on a database for the two categories, service providers for agricultural inputs, and expression of interest for agricultural infrastructure.”

Quotes were submitted to BAC for consideration and award if the price was above R500 000 he said. “The BAC report is submitted to the departmental head for approval. This process applies only to those goods or services included in the bid documents for the Panel of Service Providers and Expression of Interest. Outside these lists and above R500 000 is advertised as a separate tender,” Habermann said.