MPs gun for tender shortcuts to curb abuses
Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts has suggested that a cap must be placed on exemptions from tendering procedures amid indications that departments and state-owned entities are abusing deviations and expansions.
Deviations and expansions are invoked when departments and entities ask to be exempted from following due tendering process, citing emergencies or a single capable provider.
However, these are often open to abuse and corruption.
In the third and fourth quarters of 2017-18, a Treasury report tabled in Parliament showed that the Department of Defence (R734m), the State Information Technology Agency, (R288m), Eskom (R11.3bn), the South African Revenue Service (R917m) and the South African Post Office (R313m) requested the most deviations and expansions for contracts.
The committee has been grilling the various departments and entities that were highlighted in the Treasury report.
"We are concerned that this measure [deviation and expansions] meant to be used for emergency seems to [be] becoming a new normal within government departments and entities. We want to say ‘no it should not be’," said standing committee on public accounts chairman Themba Godi.
"We want to dissuade departments and entities from using deviations and expansions in a way that can be open to abuse. If you are going to deviate maybe there should be a cap so that we do not abuse the system [on deviations and expansions]," he said.
The State Information Technology Agency (Sita), which has been embroiled in controversy over claims of widespread corruption and its alleged lack of control around programs and systems designed for the police and other state departments, told the committee that the majority of its deviations were on software licence renewals.
In April‚ Forensic Data Analysis‚ which is owned by former policeman Keith Keating‚ suspended several police systems over a pay dispute.
DA MP Tim Brauteseth wanted to know who was to blame within the agency for the deviations. Sita chief financial officer Rudzani Rasikhinya said that the application maintenance department, which is tasked with making sure agreements with service providers are in place for all the systems, was to blame.
The agency said it was looking to change its business model from "what everybody thought we are a procurement agency".
The agency said it had engaged with 100 companies in the sector with the view to fostering partnerships as part efforts to develop small and medium enterprises and to attract younger talent "to build a quasi-Silicon Valley" so that it was not negotiating contracts "with someone putting a gun on our heads".
Earlier, members of the committee raised concern about the absence of Sita CEO Setumo Mohapi‚ who had excused himself from the meeting as he was still recovering after taking part in the Comrades Marathon.
"Sita is in tatters and on the brink of breaking down," said one MP. "Setumo is busy breaking this entity into pieces, and we have to deal with that."
Godi said in terms of the law it was the board that accounts to MPs and therefore the meeting could proceed without Mohapi.