Emfuleni in the firing line with service provider

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By: Staff Reporter

JOHANNESBURG- Embattled Emfuleni Local Municipality finds itself in the media once more for the wrong reasons.

A service provider is waging war against the municipality following the questioning of a contract she has with it. Fezi Opulentia was appointed to provide short-term insurance brokerage services, but the municipality said the contract was irregular shortly afterwards.

The contract was awarded using Regulation 32, picky backing on an already active contract at another Local Municipality. The municipality’s legal services handed a report to the Municipal Manager Lucky Leseane advising him to cancel the contract as it did not serve the municipality.

Something that the company’s Nthabeleng Khabutlane questioned. She said she was under the impression that the municipality did its due dilligece to understand the contract’s nature before opting for a Regulation 32.

According to the legal services report, Opulentia was appointed on a Regulation 32, which was done parallel to a tender process which the company had been disqualified on based on its pricing. But Khabutlane said with the Regulation 32, the municipality actually saved over R1.6 million a month.

Despite that, the municipality is still of the view that the contract is irregular and does not serve the municipality in any way. In a bid to be furnished with the real reasons for the posture, Khabutlane said she launched a court bid to understand why the contract was being questioned. She indicated that the municipality had not provided her with reasons.

“We never received a complaint from the municipality regarding our services or any issues relating to the contract. Instead, I started receiving questions from the media regarding the appointment and processes followed,” she said.

Khabutlane who is married to Gauteng ANC provincial secretary Jacob Khawe, said she and her lawyers had written to the municipality on numerous occasions in a bid to understand what the challenges were and how they could remedy them, but they have had no responses.

“We even went to the court to force the municipality to give us a response and the reasons, but they still have not submitted their court papers. We have also never seen the so-called legal opinion,” she said.

Khabutlane added that the questioning of her company’s appointment was an orchestrated political move against her husband. She added that Khawe had nothing with the appointment, and she was in business even before meeting him.

“I have been in business for over 10 years. I have done work everywhere, and I have never had clients complain about our services. I currently find myself at the centre of a political fight. Jacob was not even the mayor when my company was appointed to Emfuleni,” she said.

Khabutlane said it was unfair that her company’s past track record was being disregarded and she now finds herself being perceived as an individual who is benefiting as a result of her relationship with a politician.

“This is a form of patriarchy and discrimination. It diminishes the efforts I have put in to build my company,” she said.

Emfuleni Local Municipality spokesperson Makhosonke Sangweni this week confirmed that the contract was under review. He said between May 2019 and February 2020; the municipality undertook procurement of insurance brokerage services.

“However, this competitive bidding bid process did not yield positive results. At the time, the municipality was exposed to an unaffordable premium of R 5 175 674.16 per month with a conditional R 25 million set aside by the municipality for an aggregate fund – this is the fund that pays excess that is not covered by the municipality. In line with provisions of the Financial Recovery Plan endorsed by the Gauteng Provincial Government to limit expenditure and improve service delivery, the municipality initiated a Regulation 32 process with another Local Municipality,” he said.

The Conditions of Regulation 32 included that the price of the contract must be the same as the price of Matjhabeng Local Municipality and the conditions of the contract cannot be amended by Emfuleni Local Municipality.

“This meant the municipality would pay R 3 324 898.00 per month, with no aggregate fund – saving the municipality over R 1 400 000.00 per month, and R25 million in the aggregate fund,” he said.

Sangweni did not answer questions about the court action and if the municipality had communicated its unhappiness with Khabutlane.

“The municipality views this matter in a very serious light but will await the outcomes of the Internal Audit, following which a report will then be served in Council. The matter is receiving urgent attention from senior management, and any developments will be communicated in due course,” he said.