CEO bets on 'existential transformation' for SITA

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 02 Nov 2016
SITA is set on being an efficient provider of ICT services to government departments, says CEO Setumo Mohapi.
SITA is set on being an efficient provider of ICT services to government departments, says CEO Setumo Mohapi.

The State IT Agency (SITA) has no plans for another turnaround strategy, but has adopted a transformation and "just do it" approach to doing business going forward.

The embattled government agency has over the years been labelled useless, as it faced issues such as the lack of top-level stability, allegations of corruption and claims of irregular procurement practices.

In its 17-year history, the state agency has had a new CEO almost every year. Last year, Cabinet appointed Setumo Mohapi, making him the 18th person to take on the role.

Speaking to ITWeb on the side-lines of the GovTech 2016 conference in Midrand this week, Mohapi said SITA has had many turnaround strategies which have been fruitless.

"I don't want to use a turnaround strategy. Turnaround is not in my space at all, but the transformation of SITA is what we are trying to do.

"We are trying to transform SITA by actually doing things that maximise value to the public. Whenever we spend money, it should be money that generates the biggest public value, and that will also allow us to have a common purpose with the government departments that we serve.

"If SITA's metrics of success are not aligned with those of the accounting officer of the departments, that is a disconnect that is very dangerous."

Delay tactics

Established in 1999, SITA is the agency government set up to consolidate ICT spend and advisory, and make sure all government departments have one point of contact in terms of ICT.

In addition to supplying ICT services to government departments, SITA is tasked with driving government's e-strategy agenda and awarding the tender that will see the implementation of the first phase of the country's broadband policy, SA Connect.

Last month, National Treasury presented its Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and its Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure document, which revealed SITA's delay in appointing a service provider for the broadband project resulted in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) missing its mid-year target.

Meanwhile, telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele previously admitted the rollout of phase one of SA Connect hinges on SITA awarding a tender.

Mohapi explained: "How we do business is that we work with departments at national, provincial and municipal level - and in this case we are working with the DTPS. We made the request for their business requirements and we will process them.

"We are now at a point where we have to respond to them and we are in engagements with them. We have to formalise things before any kind of announcement is made."

According to Mohapi, the state IT procurement arm has over the years not been thinking about doing its work in line with metrics of success that talk to socio-economic development.

"We have become a technical operations function that could have added more strategic value, especially at the level of the business of government - we could have added better value there.

"We probably should have defined our problem statement in a different way and our approach to our work in a different way.

"So, we are in an existential transformation. Once we have fixed that, we will then have a critical mass of people that can also see that vision, and once that vision has been solidified, people will drive themselves."

Unhappy workforce

Earlier this year, ITWeb reported that disgruntled employees who call themselves "SITAzens" turned to the Public Protector, submitting a complaint requesting an investigation into allegations of maladministration, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The employees claimed failure to find a solution to some of SITA's issues will result in the agency being added to the growing list of failing state-owned enterprises.

The Public Protector's office confirmed that a complaint against SITA was registered in January.

At the time, SITA said it was unaware of the complaint by the "SITAzens".

Mohapi reiterated SITA is yet to receive any formal complaint from the Public Protector's office. "I never received anything from the Public Protector regarding the complaint.

"I will just have to wait, but obviously when one sees those things, they are an indication that something is not right and that you need to put a little bit more effort into making sure there is alignment, working towards a common purpose and that we all understand where we are in the business cycle of this organisation."