06 May 2016

With great power comes great confusion?

In conducting research on access to information and transparency with regards to Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) SAHA had submitted a request to G4S security services (G4S) and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) for documents relating to the Mangaung Correctional Centre. Whilst it is not surprising that our request was deemed to be refused by the DCS, the responses we received from G4S was interesting. G4S initially refused our request stating that we have submitted the request to the wrong body. SAHA reminded G4S that on their own website they have boasted about their involvement in the Mangaung correctional Services PPP project with the DCS. They responded by changing their position to being one that denies having a contract with the DCS. When we queried this position, and advised that it is again contrary to their own websites account they simply referred us to request the information from the consortium, Bloemfontein Correctional Contracts who successfully bid for the tender from the DCS. SAHA advised G4S that they are party to the consortium and should be in possession of the records. SAHA received no further reply. This trend of hiding behind bidding consortiums has already been covered in one of our previous news stories.

The answer given by G4S was unsatisfactory and lead SAHA to delve a little bit deeper into the Mangaung Correctional Centre PPP project and the investigation lead to National Treasury's website pointing out that there were a set of projects called Pioneering PPP projects, which existed prior to the PPP Treasury Regulations being finalised. These pilot projects seem to have been conducted under a different set of guidelines (or no guidelines at all).

As a result SAHA submitted a PAIA request to National Treasury (NAT) to provide a complete list of Pioneering PPP projects. Unfortunately NAT was unable to assist and provided SAHA with a section 23, advising SAHA about the steps they took to try locate the records and noting that they determined in the end that no such records exist. NAT did however transfer the requests to the relevant Public bodies who were a party to the Pioneering PPP projects (that they know of). It is unfortunate that NAT does not have a list of Pioneering PPP projects as this shows that no proper record was kept of what those projects were and are seemingly lacking when it comes to transparency. What makes the situation worse is that if there is no list of Pioneering PPP projects it is that much harder to determine who one could request records from, which in turn makes it that much harder to access records from those bodies that were party to the Pioneering PPP projects. It is a wonder as to what regulations if any those projects were subject to, and SAHA will wait to receive acknowledgements of receipt of the PAIA requests from the public bodies that NAT transferred our request too, to hopefully uncover more on the regulation of these early PPPs.