Legal View

Public Protector looks to probe SITA

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The State IT Agency may have to answer to the Public Protector following a complaint lodged by "SITAzens".
The State IT Agency may have to answer to the Public Protector following a complaint lodged by "SITAzens".

Disgruntled workers at the State IT Agency (SITA) have turned to the Public Protector, submitting a complaint requesting an investigation into allegations of maladministration, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

In the document, which is in ITWeb's possession, the anonymous employees claim failure to find a solution to some of the issues will result in the agency being added to the growing list of failing state-owned enterprises. "If no timeous intervention is rendered, SITA, as a viable company, will be grounded."

Calling themselves "SITAzens", they say their request is "an urgent plea and clarion call to the office of Public Protector to investigate the apparent rot that continuously occur[s] in the State Information Technology Agency unhindered".

It is claimed the complaint lodged against SITA represents the "entire" workforce. The decision to approach the Public Protector's office was taken in the working committee between shop stewards and the constituency, says a source.

Leadership hurdles

SITA, which was set up to act as government's IT buying arm to trim costs, has been plagued by a number of problems over the years, including lack of top-level stability, allegations of corruption and claims of irregular procurement practices.

In its 16-year history, the state agency has had a new CEO almost every year. Last year, Cabinet appointed SITA's 18th CEO, Setumo Mohapi.

Mohapi, former CEO of signal distributor Sentech, was appointed to revive the agency's efficiencies and operations.

However, according to the employees' complaint, Mohapi has done little to find lasting solutions and bring in durable stability at SITA. "Based on our interactions with SITA's executive leadership, the prevalent reality is that SITA has no executive leadership capable to tackle the bull by its horn... Numerous presentations made to the current executive management, and in particular, the CEO, has dismally failed to yield in positive results."

It adds: "The lack of executive management's response, and in some instance, their slow responses, has convinced us that the office of the Public Protector, as the Chapter 9 Legal Entity, with legislative powers, is the only relevant authority that can provide solace to the magnitude of SITAzens".

Saying SITA has a "bloated executive structure that baffles logic", the complaint urges the Public Protector to "unearth the need, the relevance of this structure".

The "SITAzens" claim top management's structure hinders employees' moral.

Under review

Oupa Segalwe, senior manager for communications at the office of the Public Protector, confirmed a complaint against SITA was registered last month.

"Kindly be aware that the only complaint we have against SITA with similar allegations to those listed in your enquiry was lodged by an anonymous person in January 2016. The complaint was subsequently assessed for jurisdiction and allocated to one of our investigation branches. It is still in its early stages," said Segalwe.

The Public Protector also sent a letter of acknowledgement that reads: "The matter you have raised will be assessed to establish whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint. As soon as this process is complete, we shall revert to you and advise accordingly."

Lucky Mochalibane, SITA's head of department of corporate communications and marketing, told ITWeb the agency is unaware of the complaint, and therefore unable to respond to allegations contained therein.

"Our efforts to cooperate with your enquiry are hindered by the fact that there is currently nothing tangible that is in the possession of SITA that points to any complaint/s being laid against the agency."

Mochalibane adds: "Consequently, the agency is not aware of any anonymous allegations of maladministration, fruitless and wasteful expenditure levelled against it through the office of the Public Protector."

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