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Cape Town’s Covid-19 camp for homeless ‘incurred R42m irregular spending’

25 January 2022 - 11:01 By TIMESLIVE
Residents at the Strandfontein lockdown camp for the homeless in Cape Town attempt to break a fence during a media visit on April 9 2020.
Residents at the Strandfontein lockdown camp for the homeless in Cape Town attempt to break a fence during a media visit on April 9 2020.
Image: Esa Alexander

More than R42m spent to rent marquees for a controversial camp for homeless people in Cape Town has been declared irregular expenditure by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Shortly after the Covid-19 lockdown was announced in March 2020, the City of Cape Town decided to relocate 1,600 people to eight marquees at Strandfontein sports field.

It opened on March 31 and closed less than two months later after widespread condemnation by human rights organisations about conditions there.

One of the leading critics, GOOD politician Brett Herron, complained to SIU investigators probing procurement related to Covid-19 that irregular contracts had been awarded to the value of R52.8m.

The biggest contract, worth R42,120,785, went to Downings Marquee Rentals, which describes itself on its website as “the leading marquee tent infrastructure company in SA”.

The Somerset West company provided tents and toilets at the Strandfontein site while the other contracts, which were not declared irregular, went to NGOs that provided food and welfare services for camp residents.

The SIU report to President Cyril Ramaphosa, published by the presidency on Tuesday, said: “The procurement process followed by the City of Cape Town in sourcing the items and services required from Downings was irregular and as such falls to be set aside.

“The City of Cape Town failed to test the market in circumstances where it was obliged to do so, but merely accepted the quotation submitted by the service provider concerned.

“As such, the procurement process was not fair, transparent, equitable or cost-effective.”

Declaring the expenditure irregular, the SIU said the city council’s failure to follow a proper procurement process meant Downings “profited excessively”.

The SIU said it is compiling instructions to the state attorney “with a view to brief counsel to advise on the viability of appropriate civil action and recovery”.

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