Correctional services' IT failing after R700m

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has spent more than R700 million on IT over the past two to three years, and there is still no workable system.

At a recent parliamentary portfolio committee meeting, chairperson Vincent Smith said there has to be an achievable and affordable road map for the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) and the DCS to build IT capacity, since the DCS has to deal with 160 000 inmates and yet cannot send him an e-mail.

The DSC and SITA highlighted a wide range of challenges facing the former in implementing the modern technology required to improve its administration.

DCS government IT officer, Nthabiseng Mosupye, identified challenges in the areas of disaster recovery and backup, lack of server rooms and old switches, and connectivity and access control. The Remand Detainee and Offender Management System (RDOMS) has also been delayed due to contract problems.

SITA noted that service level agreements had been signed with the DCS and negotiations are under way to renew the underpinning business agreement. The agency will assist with wide area network and Internet for access and connectivity services.

The department said its IT environment has experienced problems of continuously unavailable e-mail services and a very slow network. Following an assessment, the department had opted to stabilise the e-mail services internally while SITA sorted out the network services through the deployment of the virtual private network.

Consultant chop

The DCS annual report for 2010/11 indicated the department had been granted R270 million for computer services and R1.1 billion for consultancy fees. The department also had an almost 100% vacancy rate in IT.

The chairperson said this needs to end, because if the entire DCS is run by consultants, there is a political rather than an administrative problem.

Mosupye said as part of the management of consultants, 30 had been released in June 2011, another 11 had resigned before the end of the year, and 26 had been released in April.

There are currently 14 consultants on a month-to-month agreement. Consultants are now paired with business officials for skills transfer. Mosupye also said key vacant IT posts have now been advertised or filled.

Owing millions

Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, chairperson of the SITA board, said the DCS's core business of managing its facilities presented challenges.

The DCS owes SITA R47 million. This was incurred over several years, with R30 million from 2007/8, R9.9 million from 2010/11, and R6 million from 2011/12.

The DCS has been engaging about the debt. There have been disputes about services rendered. The older a debt became, the less chance of recovering the money. It is a matter of urgency, according to SITA.

Mosupye said there had been unsatisfactory service delivery from SITA the previous year. In the beginning, there had not been good relations between the DCS and SITA. There were problems on both sides, and a relationship had to be built.

Fruitless spending

The DCS has not yet accepted the close-out of the RDOMS system, as it has already been adopted by the SA Police Services and this would lead to duplication.

However, user acceptance testing had been done for the system and R80 million was paid to service provider Dimension Data.

Members questioned what was achieved in terms of value for money. SITA said it could not be known if there had been fruitless expenditure until the RDOMS has been fully tested.

The National Contact Centre had never been launched; the Lesedi 3 integrated legal system, to coordinate visits by families, had cost R36 million; the SAS system could be classified as fruitless and wasteful expenditure; too many Granite firewalls had been installed; the virtualisation architecture had been flawed, as it was not possible to visualise; and the backup software had not added value. In addition to this, R90 million worth of expenditure is under forensic investigation.

Effective IT

The DCS received qualified audits for the past seven years, and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee largely attributed this to the IT unit in the department.

Smith said it is inconceivable to think of something like a hospital, a hotel or a school running without an effective IT system, yet the DCS is in exactly this position.

The DCS is embarking on a three-year infrastructure upgrade programme that will include cabling of correctional services centres, upgrade of server rooms and network switches, and telephony.

In order to eliminate delays through procurement processes, SITA is in the process of establishing a DCS infrastructure upgrade specific contract which will shorten the procurement processes for this programme.

Payments to SITA total R82 million, according to the department.

Farzana Rasool
ITWeb IT in Government Editor.

Farzana Rasool is an ITWeb IT in Government Editor.

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