Beware of the tender fraudsters

Don’t be flattered when you receive an invitation out of the blue to tender for what appears to be a lucrative government contract.

The normal process is that you look for a tender – the tender does not come looking for you.

As the economy opens up again with the promise of increased business activity, we can expect those who make their millions from procurement fraud by putting out fake tenders, to become active again.

It might be difficult to resist the temptation to respond to an invitation to tender, or the good news that you have won that tender after responding to the invitation.

This might explain why a notice was published in the Government Gazette of 8 May 2020 with the heading in capital letters – “HIGH ALERT: SCAM WARNING!!!”.

The notice informed all suppliers and service providers of the Government Printing Works that “there are certain unscrupulous companies and individuals who are defrauding unsuspecting businesses disguised as representatives of the Government Printing Works (GPW).”

According to the notice, the fraudsters use the letterhead of GPW to send out fake tender bids to companies, with the request that they should supply equipment and goods.

A fake tender bid is very convincing. It may contain the name of a person who is actually employed by GPW. Although the contact details appear to be genuine, a slight alteration in, for example, the email address or the phone number diverts the response to the fraudster.

The notice emphasised that government emails do not have .org in their email addresses.

It would appear from this comprehensive notice that many companies have been scammed by believing that they had won an urgent tender and had delivered goods or products to someone posing as a government official just to find later that they will never be paid for the delivery.

The notice advises businesses that are registered on the supplier database to protect themselves by contacting the Department from which the invitation purportedly came, at its official address, to establish whether such an invitation is legitimate or not. Alternatively, the business can compare the tender details to the invitation with those which appear in the Tender Bulletin online.

Although this notice specifically applies to the Government Printing Works, the guidance provided is applicable to all unsolicited invitations to submit a tender at any level of government, from the smallest municipality to the biggest government department at national level.