Johannesburg's skyline. Picture: THE TIMES
Johannesburg's skyline. Picture: THE TIMES

Ambiguity in its fleet management policies has left the City of Johannesburg scrambling to secure the supply of a fleet of truck and motor bikes for a total of about R270m over 11 months.

This follows the end of a contract for the supply of 435 trucks and 72 motor bikes with Avis Fleet Services on October 31.

According to a document requesting the approval of the contract, the municipality decided to extend the contract with Avis from November 1 until September 30 2020 to ensure the availability of the trucks and motor bikes “for service delivery”.

In the document, the city’s group corporate and shared services division wanted the municipality to use regulation 36 of the municipal supply chain regulations to deviate from normal procurement processes.

The regulation allows for the deviation in instances of emergency “or any other exceptional cases where it is impractical or impossible to follow the official procurement processes”.

New tender

The municipality said the contract would run on a month-to-month basis, at a cost of R24.5m. It said the move would give the city enough time to finalise a new tender and appoint a service provider.

The document, which Business Day has seen, said there was ambiguity about whether trucks and motor bikes could be classified as specialised vehicles.

“The group fleet management policy framework does not clearly articulate the classification of trucks and motor bikes into specialist or non-specialist fleet and has created an ambiguity in the interpretation of what is a specialised vehicle,” the document said.

The city said the trucks were used for service delivery by municipal utilities such as City Power, Johannesburg Roads Agency and Johannesburg Water, while the motor bikes were used to patrol routes within the city.

Asked about the provision of the trucks and motor bikes since the Avis contract lapsed on October 31, Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said: “The city is now using the Avis trucks and bikes as per the transitional arrangement.”

Modingoane said the city did not take the decision lightly. Its other options included the regulation 36 deviation that authorises the accounting officer to deviate from official procurement processes in the acquisition of goods and services.

“However, the latter option historically posed other unintended consequences for the city as it reflects negatively on the city. It creates a perception of bias and entrenches the incumbent service provider in perpetuity. In particular, in this transaction, there was already a perception doing the rounds that Avis was preferred by other city officials hence the continued extension of their contract,” he said.

Modingoane said the city had started the supply chain process for the new competitive tender.

In the document, the city said: “Once the [new] tender is finalised, communications and planning will begin with the new service provider to ensure the rollout begins at least three to six months before the current contract comes to an end. This will ensure that the transitional period is minimised and reduced to facilitate the commencement by the new service provider”.

The city has a R1.2bn contract for the provision of non-specialised fleet with black-owned fleet management company Afrirent. The 30-month contract came into force in November 2018. However, that contract did not include the provision of trucks and motor bikes.