A controversial R378m prisons IT contract cannot be stopped until an audit and a court case are completed, minister of justice & correctional services Michael Masutha said on Tuesday.
“As far as we are concerned, it does not befall on us to stop a process of this nature,” Masutha said ahead of the debate in parliament on his department’s budget.
“It is only for a court to decide,” he said of the huge contract that chief procurement officer (CPO) Kenneth Brown had red-flagged for possible tender irregularities.
Last month, Brown said the department wanted the contract stopped after it emerged there may have been an attempt to appoint the winning bidder regardless of price or suitability.
He said an initial analysis found a R90m bid had been rejected, and that the CPO had said the job may even have been possible with a R50m price tag.
Brown wanted national commissioner of correctional services Zach Modise to review the processes of awarding the R378m tender to Integritron Integrated Solutions and for the contract to be stopped.
But at a media briefing on Tuesday, Masutha said the deal for the Inmate Management Information System had already been signed off.
He said the budget allocation had been made, and it was held by his department under a treasury arrangement that it be released in tranches over three years.
“The department conducted a procurement process and concluded it a few months ago,” he said.
Later, he said in parliament at a debate on the department’s budget that finance minister Pravin Gordhan, in whose department the CPO falls, had approached him with concerns about the tender.
President Jacob Zuma has since signed a proclamation that the process of awarding the tender be reviewed. But at the same time, Integritron had already gone to court over the process followed for the review.
Masutha said that until both issues had been finalised — the review and the court case — he could do nothing.
“I have responded to [Gordhan] to indicate that I would not be in a position to take any action in the light of any matters that have not been audited.
“The constitution is the ultimate authority on auditing,” said Masutha.
News24 reported in April that Integritron CEO Geoff Greyling had denied any foul play in relation to the contract and rejected a suggestion that the company won the contract because of its membership of the ANC-linked Progressive Business Forum (PBF).
Greyling said they was one of 6 000 companies in the PBF and was also annoyed that the CPO had not given Integritron an opportunity to answer to the allegations.