E-govt department grows frustrated with SITA

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The e-government department wants to implement phase two of the broadband network project, but says it has hit a SITA roadblock.
The e-government department wants to implement phase two of the broadband network project, but says it has hit a SITA roadblock.

To guarantee rollout of three high priority projects, which include phase two of the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN), the Department of e-Government has requested telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele to intervene to request the State IT Agency (SITA) to finalise the procurement process.

The department was established by the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) in 2015 as part of a restructuring process to ensure departments in the province are able to seamlessly talk to each other.

The department has expressed frustration with SITA's lack of cooperation in the lead to rollout phase two of the GBN infrastructure project. This marks yet another incident where the state agency's capabilities have been challenged.

The Department of e-Government has an agreement with SITA on procurement for phase two of the GBN infrastructure project, a fully managed data centre, as well as the evaluation of ICT functions and capabilities within the Gauteng City Region (GCR).

As the official government procurement arm, departments and state agencies must procure ICT equipment through the state agency, in accordance with the SITA Act.

Responding to questions from the legislature, the department says despite numerous meetings at the level of officials and the CEO, matters related to SITA procurement processes for projects have not been "satisfactory resolved".

Accordingly, the department has requested Cwele to intervene to request SITA to finalise the GBN phase two procurement within four months or grant the department a deviation from the SITA Act to procure infrastructure for phase two.

The department has the capability to finalise the process within two months, it says. "We remain concerned the delays in resolving these matters will impact on the ability of the department to meet its annual performance plan commitments."

Unknown delays

According to SITA, it is not aware of any delays from its side in terms of the procurement process for phase two of the GBN project.

In a statement issued to ITWeb, SITA says it received the original tasking letter for the procurement for phase two of the GBN project from the GPG on 12 June 2016.

"SITA provided, and the department accepted, a procurement and delivery schedule soon after. This schedule was affected through an open bidding process which involved active participation of GPG personnel as provided for in the applicable SITA regulations.

"On 19 January 2017, when SITA was ready to make a recommendation to the GPG, SITA was informed the recommendation should be deferred pending further direction from the GPG. On 25 January 2017, GPG informed SITA it was withdrawing the tasking request made to SITA dated 12 June 2016, on the basis that the GPG was reviewing the delivery approach of GBN phase two."

It adds: "In the same letter, the GPG indicated they will revert back to SITA upon finalisation of the revised delivery approach. The GPG never reverted back to SITA as per this undertaking, until a new tasking letter was received by SITA on 29 August 2017.

"Instead, in the intervening period, the GPG pursued deviation and exemption requests through National Treasury and Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services for reasons unknown to SITA."

SITA believes had the GPG reverted back to it after finalising the revised delivery approach as per the undertakings in the withdrawal letter of 25 January 2017, it would have provided a solution with a lower delivery risk profile.

The state agency points out it still plans to deliver on the new four-month delivery timelines that are inherent in the new tasking letter of 29 August 2017.

Backup plan

Despite this, the e-government department is of the view that deviating from the SITA Act is a possible contingency plan to ensure implementation of the second phase of the broadband project.

According to the department, in the previous political term, it received approval from the telecoms minister to deviate from the SITA Act to procure the rollout of GBN phase one infrastructure without SITA, following similar problems.

The provincial government began implementing the GBN project in 2014 as part of the city region's modernisation agenda.

The project is in line with the province's e-government strategy, which aims to ensure the modernisation of governance and delivery of services in a digital age. It also aims to improve linkages and integration among city region governments and their departments.

Under the leadership of finance MEC Barbara Creecy, the provincial government continues rollout of the GBN project. As a result, a total of 1 048 sites have been connected to the network across the province.

With regard to the evaluation of ICT functions and capabilities within the GCR, the department says it is performing the evaluation itself internally, with support from the Design and Validation (DAV) centre and has cancelled its request to SITA.

Through the DAV centre, eGov has supported the Gauteng Department of Education with its Schools Admissions Application system.

It adds that with regard to the fully managed data centre, all administrative and regulatory processes have been concluded. "The department has asked the minister to intervene to speed up SITA's signing of the cession agreement."

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