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Special Tribunal dismisses application in school decontamination case

30 July 2021 - 15:02 By ernest mabuza
The Special Tribunal has dismissed an application by seven contractors involved in decontaminating schools in Gauteng. File photo.
The Special Tribunal has dismissed an application by seven contractors involved in decontaminating schools in Gauteng. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The Special Tribunal on Friday dismissed an application by seven contractors who had been awarded contracts to sanitise, deep clean and decontaminate schools that were exposed to the coronavirus in Gauteng.

Chachulani Group Investment Holdings and six others are part of the 280 contractors which had performed in terms of the contract and most of them were paid a cumulative sum of about R431m.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) obtained an interim order from the Special Tribunal — without notice to the seven contractors — on June 1, which interdicted them from accessing the payments made in various bank accounts belonging to them.

It obtained the order after the SIU allegedly found material irregularities in the awarding of the contracts.

The SIU obtained the interim order before instituting a review application on June 17 seeking to review and set aside the contracts.

The SIU also seeks relief against each contractor for the repayment of ill-gotten profits derived from the contracts.

The seven companies asked the tribunal to reconsider the interim order.

The reconsideration application was heard by the Special Tribunal on July 19 and judge Lebogang Modiba dismissed the application on Friday.

The contractors raised a number of objections to the interim interdict, including an argument that the Special Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to grant the orders made because the tribunal was not a court.

Modiba dismissed this argument, and said this issue had been dealt with in two judgments passed by the tribunal this year. She also agreed that the manner in which the SIU obtained the interim order, without notice to the contractors, was appropriate under the circumstances.

Modiba said the contractors had not offered an undertaking not to use the funds in their accounts pending the review application. “If their access to the funds is not abated, the review proceedings would be rendered moot.”

She said the SIU had found there were material irregularities in awarding the contracts, including the fact there was no justification for the fees paid to the contractors.

The SIU said there was a blanket amount given to the contractors which did not determine the labour and material used to perform the task.

Modiba said the SIU also found that the supply chain management division in the department was not involved in the procurement processes.

The SIU found that service providers did not submit quotations and she said the fact that service providers were appointed through WhatsApp messages was a gross irregularity.

“The respondent's grounds of opposition lack merit, therefore the reconsideration application stands to be dismissed with costs,” Modiba said.

She said the order granted on June 1 remains operative on the terms set out in that order.