Johannesburg – It will take a genius to understand why the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) awarded multimillion-rand tenders to African Global Operations (AGO), formally known as Bosasa (Pty) Ltd, for services the department admits it was capable of doing itself.
The beleaguered company has since applied for voluntary liquidation, almost saving the DCS from doing further business with it.
National Commissioner Arthur Fraser, who took over the reins last April, said the department had already served a notice of termination letter to Bosasa on February 22 despite revelations before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
“AGO was served with a 30-day written notice to terminate the only remaining contract – HO3/2016, which is to provide nutritional services at seven management areas,” he said.
This three-year contract, which started on February 1, 2017, was to end on January 31, 2020, but the termination date was brought forward to March 24, 2019.
Awarded at a cost of R1 547 337 068, it is one of eight contract tenders given to Bosasa in its relationship with the department, dating to the 2004/2005 financial year.
Under these contracts, a total R7.1billion has been paid to date to the facilities company, including the extension and expansion of contracts.
For the tender in question, over and above feeding inmates, Bosasa was contracted to maintain food service equipment and train officials and offenders on food services at 10 management areas for three years.
Fraser does not dispute the fact the DCS is almost self-reliant as only 30% of the feeding scheme was outsourced to Bosasa. He said 26 kitchens out of 226 were allocated to Bosasa.
A further breakdown of these figures showed that of the prison population, Bosasa fed only 46 000 inmates.
In terms of feeding its guests, the department can almost never be found wanting as it says it owns 21 “big farms” and 115 small sites that produce mainly vegetables.
It also runs eight bakeries.
This is just on food production, if one was to ignore the fact that the department manufactures furniture, among other items, at its 10 steel workshops and makes uniforms for offenders at its 18 textile workshops.
For reasons outlined at the Zondo Commission as “pure greed” and “acts of corruption”, former national commissioner Linda Mti and the then chief financial officer, Patrick Gillingham allegedly saw fit to throw these huge sums of money at Bosasa in corrupt activities.
Fraser reiterated that in 2006, the then president issued a proclamation to investigate allegations of corrupt activities in the awarding of contracts to the company formerly known as Bosasa, which provided such services as nutrition, access control, fencing and televisions to the department.
In 2009, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) issued a report revealing that the contracts awarded to AGO were irregular and implicated Mti and Gillingham in corruption.
Fraser does not readily acknowledge that he’s inherited a poisoned chalice but instead vows that he’s equal to the task of turning DCS around.
He says that “following announcement by the two major banks FNB and Absa that they will be closing the bank accounts belonging to AGO on February 28, AGO then notified the DCS of its intention to apply for voluntary liquidation.
Consequently, DCS had to serve AGO with a 30-day notice to cancel the contract on nutritional services”.
“This is the only existing contract between the DCS and AGO which was for the period of three years commencing on 01 February 2017 to end 31 January 2020.”
The department says it had made plans to take over the kitchen work of Bosasa, evinced by the non- renewal of the contract it had with Ukweza Holdings to run kitchens at Groenpunt Prison.
The contract ended on January 31.
“The two kitchens are now successfully insourced,” the DCS says.
While Bosasa is still legally contracted until 24 March, there are fears that should prisoners not be fed at Johannesburg (4 kitchens), Kgosi Mampuru (4 kitchens), Krugersdorp (1 kitchen) and Modderbee (3 kitchens), DCS could have a potential prisoner revolt on its hands.
It is for this reason that on Friday, DCS commenced the expedited training of offenders in preparing food at the kitchens affected.
Johannesburg Medium A and B, Kgosi Mampuru (Odi and Central), Pollsmoor (Medium A and B including Remand and Durban (Medium A, B, C, D and Female) are considered high risk should the food supply be interrupted by the withdrawal of the service provider.
The Sunday Independent