The South African government has officially cancelled the much-delayed public-private partnership (PPP) procurement process for four new prisons, which would have added 3 000 additional bed spaces at the Paarl, East London, Nigel and Klerksdorp correctional centres.
The procurement process was initiated in October 2003 when a transaction advisory team was appointed to study the feasibility of delivering the facilities in partnership with the private sector.
The request for qualifications were released in October 2007 and the final tender on September 30, 2008. The bids were submitted in May 2009.
However, Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who took over the position in May 2009, instituted a policy and operational review, during which the bids were "not opened or evaluated" and were kept in a secure facility.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the review highlighted a number of financial and operational problems with the PPP model, including the fact that it conflicted with policy stipulating that security and custodial services of the State not be handed over the third parties.
She acknowledged that new prison capacity was still required, owing to ongoing overcrowding. But also insisted that South Africa needed to find new solutions to dealing with offenders beside incarceration.
The department had, thus, issued a tender for electronic tagging as one possible alternative and would be seeking to promote the solution within the Justice and Security clusters.
It was also interrogating other legislative provisions to help it deal with overcrowding, such as the better use of the parole systems and allowing for a greater portion of sentences to be served through community service programmes.
Additional facilities would also still be built, but the Minister offered no specifics save to say that it was a "myth" that construction jobs would be lost as a result of the cancellation of the PPP tender.
Bidders had been give the option to revise their offers to confine their involvement to construction and maintenance, but indicated that the PPP would only be attractive if they were also involved with the custodial services.
She also lambasted two existing PPP prison contracts, noting that, while the Kimberley facility had been built at a cost of R300-million, government would end up paying R1.5-billion for the capital cost of construction over a 15-year period.
Cabinet, which endorsed the cancellation, also indicated that there would be a review of PPP models across government.