Awarding of Cape health service contract to once-blacklisted company questioned

Cape Town – The Western Cape Health Department’s awarding of a health service contract to a company that pleaded guilty to collusion five years ago, has raised eyebrows.

Top N Nos was blacklisted by the Treasury in 2017, but the company went to court and had the blacklisting successfully overturned and has since done business with local and provincial governments.

The latest tender by the provincial Department of Health is to the tune of R15 million. Top N Nos was awarded the contract in July. The company is meant to supply services at Stikland Hospital and the New Beginnings Step Up/Down facility for cleaning, cooking and home-based care.

Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said: “Top N Nos was the bidder whose offer was compliant and scored the highest preference points. The Western Cape Department of Health has a rigorous, transparent and fair procurement process in place.”

Van der Heever said the company provided a service of 24 home-based carers, cook assistants and cleaners. Nine bids were received after the bid closed on February 21.

In March 2014, the Competition Commission received a complaint alleging that Top N Nos colluded with two other firms when applying for a contract to provide cleaning services at the provincial Department of Agriculture’s Stellenbosch offices.

The commission’s investigations found that the company, along with Zara cleaning service, had agreed on how to price various items in the pricing schedule which they submitted when bidding. Top N Nos pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined R36 935. The company was placed on the list of restricted suppliers, it could no longer do business with any level of government until July 3, 2022.

However, the company contested being placed on the blacklist and the Western Cape High Court ruled on August 16, 2017 they be removed from the list by August 18, 2017. But at the time of the company being blacklisted, it managed to land a contract with the City. The contract was to keep the ablution blocks at Hout Bay and Llandudno beaches clean.

In August 2018, the company received another contract from the City for the provision of garden maintenance services for Wastewater facilities.

“The department was aware that they were blacklisted in 2017, but they were not blacklisted at the time of the bidding and are not currently blacklisted. The Western Cape Government is committed to transparency and we welcome questions on procurement. This is the reason we published the Procurement Disclosure Report last week,” said Van der Heever.

Top N Nos owner Kavi Pillay said: “We can confirm that we were erroneously removed from the supplier database of the department. Our avenue to remedy this decision was to apply to court for a rectification, in which we were successful. The company has been successful in various contracts over the past years, for the City, the province, as well as private clients. The validity of all of our contractual obligations remain valid.”

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “This company was restricted some time ago by the National Treasury. During this time, the City made no awards to the company. However, the restriction was lifted after the company approached the court.

“So they are no longer listed as a restricted vendor with the National Treasury. Currently the company has contracts with the City of Cape Town for cleaning services. All contracts are awarded transparently, are open to public scrutiny and go through rigorous legal processes. Legally, the City has no basis to reject their tender if they are fully compliant.”

Tyhalibongo said the City had engaged with the Western Cape government and they had engaged with the National Treasury.

Cape Argus

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