The State Procurement Board allegedly approved an illegal tender which has triggered a series of lawsuits at the United Bulawayo Hospitals. The contract to provide security at the hospital was flighted in August 2014.
Statutory Instrument 180/2010 which prescribes the minimum amount that businesses can bid for tenders stated that any offers below $299 184 would be illegal.
But Cobra security submitted a bid of $236 973,60 and was awarded the contract.
Officials at UBH on Monday said the contract could not have been awarded without collusion between the SPB and the UBH tender board.
Documents in possession of our Bulawayo Bureau show that Norkel Security which had put forward a bid of $299 184 and had been shortlisted by the UBH tender board went on to challenge the award in court.
The ensuing chaos has resulted in the two security companies both deploying personnel to the hospital.
Cobra Security, the documents show, moved in on December 1, 2014 when the SPB notified the company that its bid had been successful.
Norkel Security deployed its security guards on February 27, 2015 after the administrative court declared the awarding of the contract null and void as it was below the prescribed minimum.
The court ruled that Norkel Security should get the contract as Cobra security had disqualified itself by submitting an illegal bid.
Officials at UBH, who cannot be named for professional reasons, said the security guards gave conflicting orders to visitors and staff.
“Whenever there is a security breach, like the time a fire broke out at the nurses’ hostel, Cobra Security and Norkel Security shift the blame on each other,” said an official.
Another official said the security guards from the two companies inconvenience the thousands of daily visitors to UBH by duplicating search routines.
Kenneth Mhlophe a director at Norkel Security said he believed the UBH tender board had connived with SPB officials to award the tender.
“We were at the Supreme Court on 25 June as UBH and Cobra security challenged the Administrative Court ruling. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling and the hospital has seemed reluctant to remove the other company’s security guards,” he said.
Mhlophe said the hospital’s executive called him for a meeting on Friday and offered his company a month’s contract to guard the hospital.
“That is not what the administrative court ruled. We should be given the 12-month contract that we submitted a bid for,” he said.
Explaining the tender process, a hospital official said: “It is impossible that this tender could have been awarded to Cobra Security without insider trading and collusion.”
The official said the SPB advertises tenders for public institutions and sets the minimum requirements.
“If a company fails to meet the minimum requirements, it is automatically disqualified,” the official said.
“After submission of bids, the SPB vets them and sends a shortlist to the hospital’s tender board. The board scrutinises the list and sends three names for the SPB to choose from.”
The official said it was mind boggling that the SPB and UBH tender board failed to note that Cobra Security’s bid was way below the prescribed minimum.
According to court papers, both the Administrative Court and Supreme Court dismissed Cobra Security’s claim that it had discounted UBH because it was a non- profit making organisation.
Norkel Security lawyers proved that UBH did not qualify for such a discount as the hospital was not registered in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisation Act Chapter 17:05.
“It (UBH) falls under the Ministry of Health and Childcare. The Private and Voluntary Organisation Act is administered by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare,” read the ruling.
UBH chief executive officer, Nonhlanhla Ndlovu could not be reached for comment. The Chairperson of the UBH board Francis Chitehwe said it seemed Cobra Security had inside information about the tender.
He said the board had instructed the hospital to award Norkel Security the contract. Chitehwe said: “The board is investigating and if there is evidence of wrongdoing, we shall take tough action. We won’t brook any corrupt tendencies.”
SPB chairperson Charles Kuwaza has not been answering his phone since Wednesday last week.