THE lucrative National Lotteries Commission tender has been pushed back numerous times as the fight to handle the R180 billion pie rages on.
At its centre is a company with close ties to Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI).
HCI is led by Yunis Shaik and John Copelyn, who pumped money into ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa's 2017 Nasrec campaign.
The R180 billion tender bid has been put on ice for the third time. According to sources within the National Lotteries Commission Board, Patel has delayed the release of Lotteries RFP (Request for Proposal) due to alleged differences with the NLC Board.
Sources have told the publication that the RFOP was sent to Patel in 2020, but to date, he has not approved its public issuing. The sources claim it is because Patel and the board don't see eye-to-eye, and he wants the board removed before it could be advertised.
“There is bad blood between the board and the minister. That is why the tender has not been advertised yet. He wants to remove them and put in place his own people to control the direction of the contract and subsequently ensure his people win the tender,” said a source.
HCI CEO John Copelyn confirmed that the company was “contemplating making such a bid once we have seen the conditions for any such tender”.
And he believed the bid process would be based entirely on the weightings of its formal adjudication once the board is seized of the matter.
He, however, refuted that the minister or his department was doing them any favours.
“We do not feel such interest by us is in any way improper, and should we ultimately submit such a bid; we shall ensure it is one that will seek to persuade an unbiased adjudicator to choose it as a winning bid on its merits,” he said.
Copelyn further added that the company appreciated that any such bid might be threatening to others that they may seek to taint it rather than compete fairly against it.
“Nevertheless, we wish to emphasise that HCI does not do business on the basis of soliciting tender victories corruptly. If we submit a bid, we will put up an offering we believe to be the best for the country and pursue it lawfully and professionally. We have not discussed the possibility of HCI submitting a bid with Minister Patel nor anyone on the National Lottery Board and are confident we approach this opportunity with the greatest integrity," he said.
NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela this week refuted the claims of a rift between Patel and the board, but he confirmed that the minister had not yet signed off on the RFP.
“The Board of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) submitted the Request for Proposal (RFP) document calling for applications for the fourth lottery licence on the 26th of November 2020. The minister is yet to approve the public issuing of the RFP document by the NLC. Enquiries with regard to the reasons for the delay must be directed to the office of the minister,” he said.
Patel's spokesperson Bongani Lukhele confirmed that the minister had received the RFP from the Board of the NLC, setting out the terms that they recommended the minister should publish. He said that did not happen as the department appointed independent legal advisers to review the draft RFP.
“Senior counsel reviewed the draft RFP and identified a number of areas where the RFP conflicted with the legislation. The minister proposed a joint meeting of the legal advisers to the department and the NLC to align the RFP to the legislation.
“This meeting took place, and substantial agreement was reached on the areas to be aligned. The department's legal advisers have subsequently been preparing a submission for consideration and approval by the minister, which is expected shortly,” he said.
Lukhele further refuted allegations that Patel was holding off on the RFP to ensure his preferred bidders would get the tender.
“The minister has no information on who will be the bidders once the RFP has been published. Should any person he knows submit a bid, it will be subject to an objective assessment done in the first instance by the NLC Board. Once the board has shortlisted candidates with recommendations on their strengths and compliance with requirements, the minister will apply himself, acting on professional advice,” Lukhele said.
He added that the department was taking precautions to ensure that any delays do not prejudice potential bidders and that any legal deficiency in the RFP could be remedied as soon as possible. He maintained that the department was taking steps to expedite the process while fully adhering to the law.