Outrage over tender to feed prisoners

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

The department of Correctional Services has flouted the laws that regulate how public funds should be spent by awarding a multi-million tender to a company whose head is said to have close ties with the ruling African National Congress, Parliament was told.

Bosasa, headed by Eastern Cape businessman Gavin Watson, was awarded a R242 million prisons catering contract last monthwhich is now being investigated by the Special Investigation Unit.

Correctional Services portfolio committee chair Dennis Bloem yesterday said that the department was last year ordered to conduct a feasibility study to establish whether it was cost-effective to outsource prisons catering, and to report back to Parliament before awarding the tender, but failed to do so.

"They failed to come back to us. The prisons department has flouted the public finance management act which says that a feasibility study must show that this is value for money," said Bloem.

Parliament's prisons portfolio committee says it has run out of time to probe the "controversial and suspicious" tender.

The Mail & Guardian reported two weeks ago that the prisons department's former chief financial officer, Patrick Gillingham, allegedly leaked confidential documents to Bosasa, and that Bosasa was given "tender documents for major prison projects before they were publicly advertised".

Although the SIU raided Bosasa last December, the company was awarded the R242 million contract last month to feed the country's prisoners.