SITA bets on e-system to curb procurement, tender woes

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 02 Jun 2021

The State IT Agency (SITA) is looking to its electronic document management system to improve internal controls and accountability in the implementation of procurement processes.

The system, which is operational, was installed on 1 November 2020, and forms part of SITA’s supply chain management (SCM) reforms, says head of corporate services Tlali Tlali.

It aims to bring integrity, transparency and ethical functioning of the agency and the service it provides to the public sector, he adds.

SITA’s procurement processes have long been criticised, with former CEO Dr Setumo Mohapi previously describing large-scale corruption uncovered in SCM andhuman capital management as destroying the soul and essence of SITA.

More recently, SITA was once again thrust into the spotlight amid the ongoing saga involving the Department of Home Affairs biometrics tender. Auditing firm Nexia SAB&T uncovered how EOH and SITA senior staffers orchestrated the scheme of making sure the JSE-listed company landed the R400 million contract.

Tlali told ITWeb that SITA developed the electronic system to ensure the safety of procurement information, improve controls in tender processes and manage all electronic documents in a secure manner.

He explains: “All tenders that SITA receives are submitted through an electronic share-point platform. All tender documents are uploaded to the platform and then become available on the electronic document management system.

“The electronic document management system also includes, for example, the checklists and minutes of meetings by SCM employees throughout the SCM value chain and includes the public opening of the bid, every evaluation committee meeting, and all other relevant tender meetings.”

To implement the system, SITA is following a phased-approach to completely replace the manual paper-based filing system. “The SCM objective is to become fully digitised, to ensure all SCM records are available in digital format.

“In the first phase, the system’s functionality entailed uploading and storage of procurement documents. The system is, in the next phases, aligned to support further internal controls.”

As to the company SITA worked with to establish the system, Tlali notes it’s based on Microsoft SharePoint. “SITA implemented the system using both internal staff and a few SharePoint specialists that SITA works with as per the SITA Microsoft Professional Service agreement.”

It was important for the government IT procurement agency to implement the system to rebuild the integrity of SITA’s procurement system, he states.

“Both the public and employees must have confidence in the execution of procurement processes, throughout the tender process. This system adds value in improving the internal controls and accountability in the implementation of SITA procurement processes.”

He points out that the internal controls, which form part of the electronic document management system, include an electronic share-point platform for documents, the implementation of checklists by supply SCM employees, and the Oracle business BI tool for contract management.

“In a digital era, with expectations from citizens on fair and equitable procurement processes, this system has built-in security controls to protect the integrity of electronic documents and records.”

So far, the benefits of implementing the system are that SITA’s tender processes have been streamlined, both in terms of efficiency and control measures, notes Tlali.

“Some examples that were realised during the proof-of-concept phase of this system being implemented include that documents are easy to find and readily available to any authorised user from any location.”

This, according to him, is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many officials involved in the tender process have to collaborate using digital platforms.

In addition, the integrity of the procurement transaction master file has improved and all documents in a procurement transaction are securely stored.

“The SITA SCM reforms programme is ongoing with multiple processes to ensure procurement track-and-trace and contract management platforms.”

Tlali indicates the system provides functionality in the following core areas:

  • Creating a directory for storing electronic documents, including the SCM master file which contains all electronic documents associated with particular procurement transactions, such as the procurement request, the client business case, bid specification, tender invitation documents, supplier communication records, bidder tender response documents, bid evaluation reports, bid adjudication reports, award letter and contract.
  • Maintaining an index of documents for easy search and retrieval.
  • Maintaining the version control and lifecycle status of documents; for example, “new” (draft document), “active” (approved document/record), “archive” (inactive/old).
  • Creating workflow functionality to allow collaboration, sequencing of documents and records to be kept between parties.
  • Managing access control to documents to avoid unauthorised access, disclosure or destruction of documents.
  • Maintaining a history log of who accessed what documents and when.