George Mahlalela. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

George Mahlalela. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

FORMER transport department director-general George Mahlalela went against the department’s plan to take over the production of driving licence cards from March 2014 when he signed a five-year extension with Prodiba to produce new-style licence cards.

Mr Mahlalela is currently under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit for signing this agreement, among other possible criminal acts, the transport department said.

The department made this revelation in papers filed in the Constitutional Court as it opposes Prodiba’s last-ditch attempt to keep the contract.

Prodiba applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against a judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in March.

The appeal court ruled that the extension of the driving licence card contract with Prodiba that Mr Mahlalela signed in February 2013, for the period 2014 to 2019, was invalid from the beginning.

It was signed during Mr Mahlalela’s last month as director-general.

Prodiba was first awarded the contract in 1997 and it was repeatedly extended. The last extension was due to expire on February 28 2014.

The department cancelled the agreement but Prodiba succeeded in the high court in having the cancellation set aside.

The department then successfully appealed, with the SCA remarking that the repeated extensions of the contract were legally suspect.

When it filed its application with the Constitutional Court last month, Prodiba said the appeal court had erred in holding that a director-general’s authority to award the multimillion-rand contract was subject to an additional legal requirement of cabinet authorisation or ministerial approval.

In its opposing papers filed earlier this month, the department said its internal memorandum signed by Mr Mahlalela in December 2012 noted that the department no longer needed a service provider because it was going to upgrade the current production infrastructure and take over the production of the licence cards.

Adam Masombuka, the department’s chief director of legal services, said the agreement signed by Mr Mahlalela was not only for over R1bn but also required the department to make a prepayment of R122m to Prodiba without services being rendered — which was contrary to national treasury regulations.

The department also said the application was moot because the department obtained a Pretoria high court order last month evicting Prodiba from the drivers’ licence production facility.

“The department will consequently be producing the current drivers licence cards in-house. Upon approval from Cabinet on the migration to the smart card licences, the Department will proceed to produce the smart card drivers’ licences. This appeal is consequently academic,” Mr Masombuka said.

The court has not indicated whether it will hear Prodiba’s application.