THE joint venture company seeking to block South African firm, Bidvest Fleet Company’s contract with government has withdrawn its High Court case with the intention of filing a fresh application in light of revelations it was the preferred bidder.
The joint venture company, which consists of Fleet Service Lesotho (Pty) Ltd and Lebelonyane (Pty) Ltd (Fleet Services), had been shortlisted for the multimillion-maloti tender to provide vehicles and related services to the government.
However, after the government last month cancelled the tender and decided to sign a new contract with Bidvest, the joint venture company filed an urgent application in the Commercial Court seeking to block the government from “awarding or extending” the contract to the South African firm.
The company also sought a stay of execution on the government’s decision pending the finalisation of the case which is before Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo.
Announcing the new deal with Bidvest last month, Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla said the company would provide computerised fleet management services for the next four years.
Under the new contract, the minister said, the government would buy 600 vehicles and hire another 600 from ordinary Basotho, with Bidvest only managing the fleet. She also said the government decided to cancel the tender because it did not have enough money “to continue that route”.
However, according to a revised tender evaluation report which only came to the attention of the joint venture company after the court application was filed, the company had been recommended as the recipient of the tender.
The report revealed that of the two final shortlisted companies – Fleet Services and Seahlolo Transport Logistics (Pty) Limited trading as Avis Fleet Services (Seahlolo) – the evaluation team recommended the tender to be awarded to Fleet Services which scored 81.85 points against 68.21 points for Seahlolo.
Following the revelation, the joint venture company has since changed tack. The Sunday Express is in possession of a copy of the letter the joint venture company’s lawyers, K. Ndebele Chambers, wrote to the government’s legal representatives in the matter, Webber Newdigate, informing them of the withdrawal of the Commercial Court application.
Dated 22 July 2016, part of the letter reads: “During the preparatory stages of our replying affidavit, we became aware of a report indicating that our client had been selected as the preferred bidder to enter into contract negotiations with the government for the provision of government fleet and management thereof.
“It is significant to note that your clients neglected to mention and or disclose to our client this very important development, even in the answering affidavit.”
The lawyers state the tender evaluation report had rendered their application “academic”.
“Our attitude, therefore, is that the discovery alters our cause of action fundamentally, and renders this application in its current form academic. “We will therefore not proceed with the application as it stands, we however have instructions that we must, on a different cause of action, approach the relevant court for redress.”
The letter was written in response to a missive from Webber Newdigate inquiring about the joint venture company’s answering affidavit in the case.
Dated 20 July 2016, part of the letter from Webber Newdigate reads: “You will recall that we were put to terms to file our answering affidavit within 14 days from 29 June 2016. We duly served and filed same on 13 July 2016.
“You were supposed to serve and file your answering affidavit seven days after service of the answering affidavit upon your offices. Same has not been served to us.
“We anticipate that you might have deemed it unnecessary to file same. We therefore hope to appear on 25 July 2016, as a matter is postponed thereto, to obtain further directions in relation to filing of the heads of arguments and even obtaining the hearing date.”
Advocate T Lesupi, of K Ndebele Chambers, yesterday confirmed they had informed the court about the developments.
“We have actually withdrawn the case so that we can file a new application. What this means is that we want to change the way we had approached the courts on the matter as at that time, our client had no information that out of the companies shortlisted for the tender, our client was subsequently recommended for awarding of the tender,” he said.
Advocate Lesupi said they would approach the court “soon” with a new application.