New MICT SETA CEO to overhaul corruption-tainted entity

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Mdu Zakwe, CEO of MICT SETA.
Mdu Zakwe, CEO of MICT SETA.

Mdu Zakwe, newly-appointed Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) CEO, has promised to overhaul the corruption-tainted organisation.

Zakwe was appointed on 1 April, replacing Oupa Mopaki, who was shown the exit following corruption allegations against him last year.

Mopaki was alleged to have been involved in corrupt and fraudulent activities that saw the entity lose millions to companies in which he had personal interest, which benefited from tenders.

MICT SETA is a skills development institution established in terms of the Skills Development Act of 1998, with a mission to generate, facilitate and accelerate the processes of quality skills development at all levels in the MICT sector in South Africa.

Ousted Mopaki is said to be appealing his dismissal by minister of higher education Naledi Pandor.

When he was removed, Charlton Philiso was appointed as acting CEO. However, Philiso is facing his own investigation for allegedly playing party to paying a "donation" to labour body, the Communication Workers Union.

Also at the time of Mopaki's ouster, three top managers at MICT SETA were suspended: Naledi Sibandze, senior manager for corporate services; Jabu Sibeko, senior manager of learning programmes; and Ernest Nemugavhini, manager of learning programmes.

Sibeko's case was resolved when he left the entity, while the other two were reinstated after being found not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Ambitious plans

In an exclusive interview with ITWeb, Zakwe said he is looking to overhaul MICT SETA's core processes to ensure corruption will be a thing of the past at the organisation.

"I am overhauling supply chain management; I am overhauling the learner programme division; I am overhauling the sector skills planning division; and ETQA [Education and Training Quality Assurance]," said Zakwe.

"We will be looking at all our processes. Every manager has come to my office and we have discussed their business processes and, with them, we have identified process deficiencies and we had a mutual agreement that we have to overhaul our processes."

According to Zakwe, the business processes at MICT SETA were not control-conscious to some degree. "There were some controls in place but I think we can optimise those controls better and we can introduce new ones as well, to make sure the things that happened don't happen again."

He noted MICT SETA will hire a new supply chain manager, and will, as per the minister's directive, stop outsourcing IT services from Deloitte and bring them in-house.

MICT SETA will now have full control of all its IT systems, he said. "All of those things are going to change completely. I am also starting to involve other quality assurance providers on everything that we do.

"As an example, no SLA [service level agreement] will be signed by myself unless I get a stamp of approval from the internal auditors to say we have complied with everything before we disburse a grant. So we are overhauling all our core processes so this does not happen again."

Training revamp

Besides dealing with the past leadership issues, Zakwe is on a mission to ensure the training programmes MICT SETA provides are relevant for today's needs.

He pointed out that some of the programmes the entity is still offering are outdated and need a fresh approach.

"What good will it do to train people on a pager? Who makes a pager these days? Nobody. So what good will that do? Rather train people to mend the robots, or to become e-librarians."

According to Zakwe, more focus will be put on entrepreneurial skills rather than job-seekers, and the fourth industrial revolution will be the cornerstone of the new programmes.

MICT SETA will put more emphasis on areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber security, data governance, blockchain, drone technology and automated vehicles, among others.

"When I arrived here, I looked at our learner programmes and I said to myself 'there is no way we could still be training people in these areas'. This is not training people to become entrepreneurs or training them to be innovative and invent things. For us, as a country, to be able to self-sustain in the ICT space, we need to start making things.

"We buy a lot of things. If you go to the Stats SA Web site and look at the graph between exports and imports on ICT goods and services, you will see that the imports are forever going up while the exports are stagnant.

"That is not a very healthy graph and we, as a SETA, have a role to play to make sure we can impart skills that can lead to the development of our own IP [intellectual property], industries and value chains in this country," he said.

Building local capacity

However, Zakwe noted he is not for import substitution in totality. "I do acknowledge the presence of the conglomerates that are in South Africa and I am saying to them, we need to build local capacity by tapping into local talent.

"It can't be that we are here to build skills to only support the big conglomerates that are here. It can't only be about that; it must also be about how do these conglomerates come into the country and tap into local talent, and make sure they use the local talent to develop local capacity, local IP and development to spur the industries here."

Zakwe pointed out the current programmes at MICT SETA are more supportive of the big companies in the country.

"For example, you become an engineer of company A or analyst of company B; you support product A or product B. Yes, it's fine as it generates jobs but we should be about generating entrepreneurs rather than generating job-seekers.

"That means we are not going to wait for the conglomerates to apply for grants, but we are going to go to them and tell them what we want to achieve. They must plug into our agenda as well and it's going to be a two-way game."

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