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SAPS had improper deal with vehicle tracking company: Mkhwebane

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane issued her findings on a 2013 complaint on Tuesday.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane issued her findings on a 2013 complaint on Tuesday.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Vehicle tracking and recovery company Tracker "improperly benefited" from the use of state resources as a result of its agreements with the police (SAPS).

This was one of the findings made by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in a report released on Tuesday following a complaint lodged with her office in 2013.

Mkhwebane also found that the process followed by the police in concluding agreements with Tracker for the provision of vehicle tracking systems in vehicles belonging to the police was improper.

Tracker responded to the report by denying that it had improperly benefited from state resources.

The complainant charged that police used resources - including police officials, police vehicles and aircraft - for the benefit of Tracker, to locate and recover their clients’ stolen vehicles.

The complaint alleged the relationship allowed Tracker to utilise state resources to fund itself, resulting in significantly higher profit margins for the company than if it were to pay for the resources itself.

It further claimed that the police service had not benefited from the relationship, as no fee disbursements or expenses (such as for fuel or vehicle maintenance costs) were borne by Tracker.

“I investigated allegations of maladministration relating to an irregular awarding of a contract to Tracker Network [sic] by the SAPS,” said Mkhwebane on Tuesday.

She found that the processes followed by the police in conducting the agreements over the past 21 years had failed to meet the standards imposed in terms of section 217 of the constitution and therefore amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.

The section requires that all public procurement be in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.

“I found that the process followed by SAPS in concluding agreements with Tracker and Tracker Connect for the provision of the vehicle tracking system in vehicles belonging to SAPS were improper," she said. “I also found that the agreements between SAPS and Tracker resulted in Tracker improperly benefiting from the use of state resources.”

She said the police service used its personnel, vehicles, infrastructure and aircraft in responding to activations for stolen or hijacked vehicles.

“In this regard, the national commissioner of police and respective supply-chain management officials failed to comply to the [Public Finance Management Act] ... The conduct of SAPS in this regard amounts to improper conduct and maladministration.”

To remedy this, she said, SAPS had to fervently engage other service providers in the sector to prevent possible monopolies.

“Such engagements should be undertaken to inform and guide service providers of their needs, specifically the technical specifications of the goods, works or services that are required.”

She said this would allow service providers to either acquire or develop their technologies to meet the needs of the police service and enable them to also enter into agreements with the police.

Tracker responded that it did not improperly benefit from state resources.

“Tracker disagrees with the public protector’s finding that Tracker ‘improperly benefits’ from the use of state resources,” the company said in a statement.

It said while the public protector correctly noted that the police utilised its personnel and resources to recover clients' stolen or hijacked vehicles, she did not place sufficient emphasis on the fact that the service also worked closely with other vehicle-recovery companies to recover their clients' vehicles.