In the same week of the deadline for nominations for the replacement of former Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula, the matter of the lease contract that got her in trouble was entering the court space once more. The IEC wants the North Gauteng high court to set aside the R320-million lease agreement that Tlakula entered into without following proper procurement procedures.
In another development, reported Business Day on Friday, a company called Khwela City Property Investments had filed a lawsuit against the IEC for R7.5-million in damages after not being awarded the lease contract.
"Khwela City was the preferred supplier who met all the criteria. Despite that, they were not awarded the contract," Marlon Stuart, a senior partner for law firm Stuart van der Merwe Incorporated, acting for Khwela, is quoted as saying.
"The claim is for not being awarded the tender, based on the public protector’s report."
After lengthy resistance, Tlakula finally resigned from her position in September following the release of a damning report by public protector Thuli Madonsela earlier in the year. Madonsela found that Tlakula did not follow correct procurement process when acquiring the commission’s headquarters at the Riverside Office Park in Centurion.
Opposition parties made numerous calls for Tlakula's suspension in the lead-up to the May elections. Her integrity, argued the DA and the UDM at the time, had been tainted, and she could no longer hold a position of authority such as chairperson of the IEC.
Unlawful tender procedures
The IEC has occupied the Riverside building since 2010, under a 10-year lease. Madonsela found Tlakula had a relationship with Thaba Mufamadi, at the time the chairperson of Parliament's finance portfolio committee. The lease was awarded to Abland, a company in which Mufamadi is a shareholder.
News24 reported last Thursday that the IEC claimed in papers submitted to the court that Tlakula unlawfully committed the commission to nearly R83-million in expenditure that was not procedurally fair, transparent, or competitive.
A founding affidavit filed by IEC deputy chairperson Terry Tselane, the report said, stated that Tlakula did not follow a fair procurement process before signing two addenda to the lease, which resulted in additional expenses – for immovable and movable fitting-out – worth R22.6-million and nearly R60-million respectively.
Another report by the National Treasury found the process was neither fair, transparent, nor cost-effective. It found Tlakula did not give guidance or formally inform various individuals what was expected of them in the process.
From the time of the release of Madonsela’s report, Tlakula refuted the findings, and went on to take the matter to the Electoral Court. When Madonsela’s findings were upheld, she took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which also dismissed it. Tlakula then announced her resignation.
Nominations for the new chairperson had to be submitted to Parliament by Friday.