OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA
OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA

Airports Company SA (Acsa) has suspended the evaluation of 78 retail store tender bids after a recent high court judgment found that the state-owned airports operator had acted inconsistently with the Constitution in another tender.

Earlier in July, the High Court in Johannesburg found that Acsa’s attempt to exclude car rental company Imperial from its premises on empowerment grounds was unconstitutional.

The judgment handed down by Judge Phillip Coppin forced Acsa to scrap the request for bids it issued last September for 10-year car hire concessions at nine airports‚ comprising a total of 71 kiosks.

Coppin found that the company had failed to apply section 217 of the Constitution and the framework legislation envisaged in that section.

Bids evaluation on hold

Acsa on Tuesday said in light of this judgment and the impact it could have on the current tender for retail opportunities, it was suspending the evaluation of bids. It would advise bidders of the next step once it had considered the way forward.

This decision affected 26 food and beverage retailers, 21 fashion apparel stores, 27 speciality stores, two curios and two foreign exchanges.

The suspension of the tender evaluation bid process will likely not affect current retailers or leave them out in the cold. Acsa said it would "ensure continuity of its airports retail value proposition for its passengers".

"All impacted retailers are aware of the tender process and some had submitted bids as part of this tender process," it said.

The state-owned airports operator has been plagued by corporate governance issues, which have seen several board members resign. In June, in a response to a written parliamentary question, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande said four board members had resigned over the past three years. This left the company with only three board members.

Nzimande has given an undertaking to restore corporate governance at Acsa and fill vacant positions.

The retail opportunities put on hold are for existing retail spaces at airports around the country where contracts had expired and needed a new tender process.

The tenders were for 31 retail spaces at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, 23 at Cape Town International Airport and 15 at King Shaka International Airport in Durban. There were a further nine spread across other cities.

Acsa was "resolutely committed to implementing official policy with respect to facilitating transformation through its procurement practices, but equally committed to carrying this out within the law".

Imperial has run airport car-hire outlets for 32 years; it has a quarter of SA’s car hire market.