Alarm as dud bid leaves Joburg with just 13 fire engines
Bidder withdrew from tender to supply Metro with fire engines, leaving the city hopelessly under-resourced
The City of Johannesburg, which spans 334km² and is home to 28 fire stations, still operates with just 13 fire engines.
Three months after the metro expected to receive new fire trucks, it is back to square one after the supplier withdrew its bid, mayoral committee member for public safety Michael Sun said.
In 2017, the city cancelled a R161m contract for the provision of fire engines after it was discovered that the tender was awarded on the basis of forged bid evaluation committee documents.
The agreement‚ entered into in 2015‚ was allegedly entered into on condition that the contractor furnish the city with a performance guarantee of R16m and that it demonstrated that it had sufficient cash flow to enable delivery. A purchase order of R19m was issued to the contractor for delivery of the first set of fire engines.
But Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba said at the time that alarm bells rang after the contractor not only failed to provide the performance guarantee but also failed to deliver the 29 new fires engines as per the contract.
Sun confirmed this week that the city at present operated with only 13 fire engines. He said the city would re-advertise the tender.
It had embarked on a much-needed programme to increase its firefighting capacity – a state of affairs further exposed by the fire that engulfed the Bank of Lisbon building in September 2018, which claimed the lives of three firefighters. The deaths of Khathutshelo Muedi, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Simphiwe Moropane highlighted deadly working conditions in ill-equipped buildings, and the municipality’s inadequate fire stations.
Sun said last month the winning bid was eventually determined, but not without more interruptions.
“Regrettably, only days before the highly anticipated announcement of the winning bid, the City of Joburg received a formal letter from the supplier indicating their withdrawal from the process. This meant there would no longer be a supplier of the fire engines and the procurement process would have to be re-advertised,” said Sun.
“After becoming aware of the situation, an urgent meeting was immediately called to implement Plan B, which seeks to expedite the procurement process.”
Asked why the service provider had withdrawn, Sun said: “They didn’t give reasons. When we advertised, this service provider was the only one that made the cut. We will now have to start the process from scratch.”
The secretary for the greater Johannesburg region of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union, Bafana Zungu, accused Sun of trying to defend his party’s poor performance. He voiced concern that the municipality was operating with a huge shortage of fire engines.
Times Select reported in 2018 that the city did not meet the SANS code 10090 (SA National Standard – Community Protection against Fire), but the city said it was working on complying and getting a new fleet of fire engines.
In November, Sun promised that the winner of the new tender to produce engines would be announced at the end of January 2019.
The first batch of new fire engines would include 29 new vehicles, which means one new engine for every fire station.
“The first batch should arrive five months after the tender is awarded. We want 104 fire engines to be delivered over the next three years, including the 29 first batch.”
Until then Sun said they would lease or loan engines from their suppliers or from other stations.
Sun denied the firefighters were sent to their deaths when responding to the Bank of Lisbon fire. “Rescue is our first priority. We couldn’t just let the building go up in flames because we risk a structural collapse, then we worry about the fumes from the fire. Perhaps it wasn’t the best way to approach the fire, but we are still investigating how the fire started and what was fuelling the fire.”
Early this month the Gauteng provincial government said the Bank of Lisbon building is to be demolished. Spokesperson Thabo Masebe said a contractor had been appointed to oversee the destruction of the building.