Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
It is said that wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men learn from the mistakes of others. With this in mind, I would like to share a recent experience that one of our local businesses had, in the hope that it prevents others from facing a similar situation.
A local information technology (IT) company advised that they received a request to quote on a large number of hi-spec laptops (37 in total) for the KZN Department of Correctional Services. They submitted their quote and were delighted when they received an official order for the delivery of the laptops about a month later. They ordered the stock and had to make some improvements to the standard product to meet the specifications (adding additional RAM) and delivered the laptops.
Imagine their surprise, when almost two weeks later, the laptops were dropped off at their business premises, and they were advised that there was an internal investigation being conducted at the Department, and that the goods had to be returned pending the outcome of the investigation.
They were alarmed, even though they were confident that they had not done anything wrong, because they realised that they would have to carry the costs of the stock until the matter was resolved. They contacted the Area Commissioner and were reassured that the matter would be swiftly resolved. It’s been two and a half months, and despite desperate pleas from the business (that just get ignored) they are still no closer to resolving the issue.
For the Department this is probably no big deal, but for this small business, it’s catastrophic. They can’t simply return the merchandise, because the laptops have been opened to install the RAM, so the suppliers won’t take the stock back. They’re stuck with it and it’s customized.
How do they pay their suppliers if they don’t get paid and how do they order more stock if they can’t pay their suppliers? If they can’t get stock, then they can’t service other customers.
This could potentially put this business out of business, and if they, as they claim, have done nothing wrong, simply delivered on an official order, then this closure would be squarely on Government’s head.
And what does it mean for other businesses? Is an official order no longer sufficient when doing business with Government? Should further confirmation be obtained from someone more senior before you attempt to meet an order?
If there has been some form of collusion and/or corruption, I’ll be the first one to stand up and demand accountability, but where none can be found, not honouring an official order is quite simply, inexcusable. Surely it’s an abuse of power and of the system?