Govt's R2.5bn duplication

By Christelle du Toit, ITWeb senior journalist
Johannesburg, 10 Jun 2008

Department of Home Affairs (DHA) director-general Mavuso Msimang insists the request for bids (RFB) issued by the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA), to automate certain government services, is a complete duplication of the work his department has already embarked on.

The DHA last year awarded JSE-listed GijimaAst a large tender - currently standing at R2.5 billion - to run the "Who am I online" project. Under this initiative, DHA functions are to be automated and integrated into the existing automated fingerprint identification system.

The project has to introduce elements such as electronic passports and ID applications, as well as smart card-based technology, to the beleaguered department.

The DPSA recently called for bids under the e-government banner to bring six government services online, including Home Affairs functions, such as birth registrations, death notifications and ID applications.

Msimang says: "If they [the DPSA] are asking for bids to do what they are talking about, it would lead to serious duplications. It would be a terrible waste. I don't see how it [automating Home Affairs functions] can be done any other way than we are doing it."

He says the DPSA's DG made contact with him subsequent to its RFB, but that he is still waiting for technical specifications of exactly what that department wants to do.

However, Msimang is defiant that the DHA will not stop its work, particularly with regards to online identity management, which he says has to be in place for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

"We cannot waste any more time. As it is, we want to speed up implementation, as there is still a lot of catch-up to be done."

A recent decision by Home Affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to have the auditor-general investigate all aspects of the GijimaAst tender allocation, based on its escalating price-tag, does not worry Msimang

According to him, complaints from people who lost out on the tender most likely led to the investigation.

"I don't know why they would want to go and do that [complain]. The [tender] process was totally above board - it is squeaky clean. Maybe they need to investigate the people that are raising these 'concerns'."

Where it's at

The State IT Agency, which is facilitating both projects, declined to comment on the issue of duplication between the initiatives.

Michelle Williams, government's CIO, says the DPSA is continuing with its RFB and does not believe there is any duplication.

"We are creating a transversal e-government platform and, if the DHA has already done work in that regard, we are closer to getting there."

She insists there is, as yet, no existing transactional transversal platform in place in government and, until such as time as decided otherwise, the DPSA e-government project will continue as is.

"We have to sit down with the two projects and look at what they want to do to get a coherent understanding," she adds.

Bids for the DPSA's project are due by 20 June.

Meanwhile, both Msimang and GijimaAst group market development and transformation executive Thoko Mnyango are satisfied their work is on track, although they say timeous implementations will be critical going forward.

Mnyango says work on "phase zero", relating to infrastructure, is complete, and that work on "phase one" is proceeding. She could not divulge more details.

Msimang explains that a control system has already been put in place to monitor refugee movement across the country, and that online registration for ID books is being piloted at 40 Home Affairs offices.

He says even though the overall GijimaAst contract has still not been signed - it has been sectioned off with parts still being negotiated - the deal is being implemented and is proceeding well.

Related stories:
GijimaAst to sign Home Affairs deal
Work under way on 'Who am I'
Home Affairs smart card pilot on track