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Altron challenges R700m Tshwane ICT tender in ‘public interest’

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 25 Jul 2023
Altron is challenging the awarding of the City of Tshwane’s ICT network tender to Brilliant Telecommunications.
Altron is challenging the awarding of the City of Tshwane’s ICT network tender to Brilliant Telecommunications.

JSE-listed technology services firm Altron is challenging the awarding of the multimillion-rand City of Tshwane information and communication technology (ICT) network tender to Brilliant Telecommunications in the courts “as a matter of public interest”.

In response to an article by Sunday Times that the company approached the courts to challenge the validity of the R700 million contract, Altron confirmed to ITWeb via e-mail that it has gone the legal route.

Sunday Times reported that Altron alleges in its court papers that the winning bidder, Brilliant Telecommunications, could not do the work and should not have been awarded the tender.

In an affidavit, Altron says Brilliant Telecommunications does not possess “the necessary accreditation, appropriately qualified human resources, capabilities or skills to perform the work”.

Altron was the exclusive provider of the City of Tshwane’s ICT network for the past 18 years.

Says an Altron spokesperson: “The Altron Group notes the article published in the Sunday Times on 23 July.

“The group confirms that Altron Systems Integration has applied to the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria in terms of the Promotion of the Administrative Justice Act to review and set aside the City of Tshwane’s decision to award the majority of a critical ICT corporate network tender to Brilliant Telecommunications.

“The tender award review application is sub judice and Altron cannot comment on specific details at this time. The Altron Group is pursuing this review as a matter of public interest.”

ITWeb reached out to Brilliant Telecommunications for comment, but had not received feedback by the time of publishing.

Altron has previously had run-ins with the City of Tshwane over tenders.

A long-running battle pitted the City of Tshwane against Thobela Telecoms, a special purpose vehicle in which Altron Nexus is a minority shareholder.

The case, which began in 2016, saw the city take the matter for judicial review after allegations of impropriety surfaced.

The matter related to a dispute between Thobela Telecoms and Tshwane over the city’s allegations that the tender award process was irregular due to internal processes and procedures at the City of Tshwane not being correctly followed.

The project was later put on hold by the city, pending the outcome of the litigation proceedings.

The city subjected the multibillion-rand broadband contract to judicial review after discovering what it said were serious irregularities, which "taint the legality of the deal".

Tshwane's administration, then led by the Democratic Alliance, instituted an investigation into the procurement process of the deal after the auditor-general (AG) found the contract to be irregular.

The AG's report determined the value of the contract at R2.73 billion.

Solly Msimanga, who led the administration at the time, contended “the broadband contract and its procurement are riddled with irregularities and non-compliance”.

In 2021, the Constitutional Court refused the City of Tshwane’s application for condonation and dismissed the application for leave to appeal with costs.

Earlier this year, the tumultuous broadband contract between Altron and the Gauteng Provincial Government came to an end.

According to the firm, the rollout of the project experienced delays outside of Altron’s control, resulting in fewer sites being deployed than initially scoped for in the original tender award.

An assessment was performed over the inventory pertaining to this project, resulting in an impairment of R31 million in business unit Nexus.