David vs Goliath battle

14 November 2012 - 02:01 By AMUKELANI CHAUKE
The old Department of Home Affairs building in Pretoria. File photo
The old Department of Home Affairs building in Pretoria. File photo
Image: Elvis Ntombela

After years of unsuccessfully trying to negotiate payment of a multimillion-rand bill, a disgruntled Johannesburg businessman is suing the Department of Home Affairs.

Otto Moswane, the CEO of Double Ring, has been fighting Home Affairs since 2009 over its refusal to pay his company R76-million.

Double Ring was appointed in 2006 to supply mobile offices. The offices enabled the department to send vehicles with an internet connection to remote areas to process identity documents.

At the centre of the dispute is the fact that Double Ring sourced the internet bandwidth overseas. Home Affairs said it was invoiced in US dollars but it was of the view that, because the services were provided locally, it should be billed in rands.

Double Ring claims that the department knew that the bandwidth would be sourced abroad.

The lawsuit and other legal claims are among the reasons for a uditor-g eneral Terence Nombembe giving the department only a qualified audit for 2011-2012 .

The department is currently faced with R1.2-billion in pending legal claims, which include tender disputes, and civil, immigration, car accident and personal injury claims.

Mkhuseli Apleni, the department's director-general, is, according to the annual report, being sued for R18.3-million by Chillibush Communications.

Chillibush was awarded a tender in 2008 to coordinate the department's campaigns, media placements and productions for 12 months.

Moswane also accuses Apleni of refusing to settle a multimillion-rand bill for work done between October 2007 and January 2009.

Apleni said the department will defend the case brought by Moswane. He denied the department was abusing its power by asking Moswane's company to provide "security for costs".

Double Ring needs to provide a financial guarantee that it can afford to pay legal costs if it loses the case against Home Affairs.

"We are not abusing power. It is our right so that we can be sure that when we go through and . in the event [that] we win this case [the department is awarded the costs]," Apleni said.

"They don't have a case in this matter. We don't see why we should pay them the money."

Last year, the department paid JSE-listed ICT group Gijima R2.27-billion after initially disputing the validity of a contract in which Gijima was appointed to overhaul the department's ICT infrastructure in 2008.

The Double Ring case has since been referred to the state attorney.

Moswane has complained to parliament about his company's treatment by Home Affairs.