SARS re-issues R1.5bn scanner tender

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After many months of controversy, executive changes and tender cancellations, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has confirmed its two largest IT projects are back on track.

Following the re-issuing of its voice and data networks tender two months ago, SARS will on Friday also re-issue its customs scanner tender. Each project carries an estimated value of R1.5 billion.

A crucial difference between the original customs scanner tender and the new one is that SARS has been able to free up money to buy more scanners than the original would have allowed, explains SARS communications GM Logan Wort.

This, he explains, has been achieved by removing the operational component from the tender. The revenue service will perform all operation in-house, and the tender will be for the acquisition and maintenance of the scanners only.

Seven 'towers'

A request for tender advertisement published yesterday lists seven categories of scanners and related equipment:

* Airport baggage scanners
* Airport cargo scanners
* Rail scanners
* Fixed scanners
* Mobile scanners
* Compact mobile scanners
* Re-locatable scanners

Wort says - rather like the new voice and data networks tender - this new scanner tender allows many companies to be involved in the project, since an interested company can bid for just one of the seven "towers". "The tender is absolutely open," he says.

Earlier this year, three bidders were short-listed: Bonisa Scanning Solutions, Safika-Smith Consortium and Thibela Scanning. Now it appears they stand in no better a position than anyone else.

Wort says that, due to the removal of the operational component, there will need to be "extensive" training - both initial and ongoing - of the SARS customs staff members who will operate the scanners.

"Part of the contractual arrangements [with the winning bidders] will be the provision of training."

Although the intention is to allocate existing revenue service staff members to the operations, he says if needed SARS will bring in new people.

The road ahead

Following the full tender publication on Friday, SARS has organised a compulsory industry briefing session on 15 November, which will be followed shortly after by a compulsory site visit to the Port of Durban.

From there, interested parties will have until 29 December to submit their bids, which will then be evaluated by the tender evaluation committee and the bid selection committee - which makes recommendations to the SARS executive.

Commenting on the accelerated tender process, Wort points out there is great urgency to get the project off the ground, and begin more accurate scanning of goods coming into the country.

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