SERVICES SETA PAYS OUTA’S LEGAL BILL IN TRANSPARENCY CASE
Thank YOU for helping to fund our investigation into this dubious R162 million contract
In November last year, OUTA was granted access to documents by the high court which the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Services SETA) was trying to hide. At the time, the court also ordered the Services SETA, as the losing party, to pay OUTA’s legal costs. On 3 August, the Services SETA paid our taxed bill of costs in full. OUTA received R97 494 and the sheriff receives R6 089 to cover that office’s costs.
The case arose from the Services SETA’s refusal to comply with OUTA’s application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) for documentation on a R162 million contract which the Services SETA awarded to Grayson Reed Consulting. OUTA had filed the PAIA application in January 2019. The Services SETA provided some of the requested documents but refused the rest. In October 2019, OUTA filed a court application challenging the refusal, and won this in November last year.
The Services SETA has since the court order, provided OUTA with the information and our investigators have assessed it and found significant wrongdoing in this contract which was supposed to benefit learners and interns. OUTA is finalising a report detailing our findings. The report will be shared with SETA and will be handed over to relevant law enforcement bodies before the end of 2022. We will also release the report to the public.
“OUTA is of the view that if state-owned entities such as the Services SETA were strong proponents of transparency and accountability then getting access to information held by the state would not be this expensive, especially because access to information held by the state is a constitutional right. The amount paid to OUTA by Services SETA is for OUTA’s taxed legal costs getting the information from the Services SETA,” says Asavela Kakaza, OUTA Legal Project Manager.
“OUTA’s report will not only detail irregularities by the Services SETA on the Grayson Reed contract, but will also reveal the network of individuals and companies who assisted each other to obtain tenders in other SETAs as well as other organs in the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation. The report will also include the law enforcement bodies to which the report will be distributed.”
OUTA has frequently encountered difficulties with state-owned entities which block access to information despite a duty to be transparent. We are currently involved in three court applications against SANRAL and toll concessionaires to obtain documents that should be in the public domain. Furthermore, OUTA has also submitted PAIA applications to Construction Education and Training Authority (“CETA”) for access to information pertaining to a R24, 9Million tender that CETA awarded to Greyson Reed, a tender similar to the one that Services SETA awarded to Greyson Reed, but unfortunately, OUTA has not received any form of cooperation from CETA and has resolved to take the matter to the Information Regulator. OUTA is of the view that the network of individuals who assisted Greyson Reed in obtaining the tender from Services SETA are also the same individuals who assisted Greyson Reed in obtaining the tender from CETA.
Transparency by government is one of the foundations of our democracy.
Judge Senyatsi of the Johannesburg High Court commented as follows in her November 2021 judgment in OUTA’s case against the Services SETA and Grayson Reed: “Our Constitutional values require that public bodies be transparent, and that transparency in turn equates to public confidence on how the public funds are managed.”
For more on OUTA’s case against the Services SETA, see here.