Constitutional Court hears Gijima and Sita dispute
The ongoing legal battle between technology group Gijima and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) headed to the Constitutional Court on Tuesday as the state-owned firm sought to set aside the multimillion rand deal it awarded to the privately owned company.
In January 2012 Sita cancelled a multimillion rand contract with Gijima to provide IT services to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and this resulted in the company, founded by businessman Robert Gumede, incurring about R20m in lost revenue.
The contract was awarded in 2006. In February 2012, the parties reached an out of court settlement that resulted in Gijima being offered another contract with the Department of Defence and Sita also agreed to compensate Gijima for losses which arose from the termination of the SAPS agreement.
Sowetan reported in January that a year into the department contract, Sita stopped paying Gijima and the company instituted arbitration proceedings to force the state agency to pay R9.5m. In its response at the arbitration proceedings, Sita stated that the department contract was invalid as it did not comply with section 217 of the constitution. The arbitrator ruled that he did not have jurisdiction.
Sita then approached the High Court to set aside the department’s contract but that application was dismissed. The application was also dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Both courts said Sita’s 22 months delay in launching its challenge was unreasonable as the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act makes provision for judicial review to be instituted without unreasonable delay and not later than 180 days, the Sowetan reported.
Sita argued before the Constitutional Court that when an organ of state seeks to review and set aside its own conduct, it does so on the basis that its conduct is inconsistent with the constitution and the question should be one of legality and not the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
Gijima argued that section 217 of the constitution requires of an organ of state to devise a system of fair procurement that admits only of exceptional deviations.
Gijima emphasised that there was no reason to exempt organs of state from the applicability of the act and devise a separate system of judicial review for them.