SITA refuses to be held at gunpoint

Read time 3min 40sec
SITA CEO Setumo Mohapi.
SITA CEO Setumo Mohapi.

State IT Agency (SITA) CEO Setumo Mohapi sent out a stern warning to service providers that think they can hold the entity to ransom.

Mohapi was speaking on Friday during the launch of SITA's National Development Plan hackathon, and noted the agency forgot its function, but it is in the process of redefining its role within the industry.

According to the CEO, the public perception is that SITA is fighting with its suppliers. This, he said, is not a fight, but the government agency is standing its ground in regards to the transformation it wants in the industry.

"Never again do we want to see members of the industry hold a gun to SITA's head, saying if you don't pay 500% more... you are going to bring this country to a standstill," said Mohapi. "Never again, and we stand by that."

Trail of corruption

Over the years, SITA gained a reputation as the embattled government IT procurement arm; the result of corruption claims and irregular procurement practices levelled against it.

Since taking office in 2015, Mohapi has reiterated his commitment to clean up the organisation by rooting out corruption. In line with the restructuring exercise, SITA's executive committee established an internal forensic investigation into the organisation's operations.

The investigation uncovered large-scale corruption in supply chain management and human capital management, which the CEO described as destroying the soul and essence of SITA.

Mohapi previously pointed out by focusing more on procurement, a new culture started brewing in certain areas of SITA through individuals, in the supply market, and also in the customer side.

Earlier this year, SITA announced it had officially requested a full investigation into the Eastern Cape provincial government's broadband project, amid allegations of unlawful procurement processes.

Most recently, SITA was flung into the spotlight amid allegations of corruption involving the South African Police Services (SAPS), Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) and its owner, Keith Keating.

As reports about the legality of contracts entered into by SITA, the SAPS and FDA unravelled, there were fears the country's criminal justice system would be switched off. FDA, the SITA-appointed service provider, threatened to terminate essential software services of the SAPS as a result of non-payment.

Mohapi explained: "The fights that we are in right now are the fights that are located within the structure of the industry. We probably did not ask and did not say what we wanted. We allowed the industry to dictate what it could do for government.

He said SITA failed to stick to its mandate. "We did not voice the reason for our existence as SITA, which is to make sure that we improve service delivery to the public, and not just buy licences that are probably created outside of the country."

Redefined mandate

According to Mohapi, SITA has to redefine not only its own role, but also the industry's relationship with public service.

"We have an existential problem as the industry. We need to change what we want to get out of technology and we need to look at the impact of what we do."

Nokuzola Ehrens, SITA board member and acting chairperson of the sub-committee for research, development and innovation, reiterated the agency is at a turnaround stage.

"We want to make sure that we can really change the way that SITA is perceived and make it the way we need for it to be perceived. We should be the leaders and advisors of technology.

"We should be the think-tanks in the industry and provide solutions to problems and not just be an organisation that purchases on behalf of the government, because that has compromised SITA.

"On the procurement side, we have managed to introduce an automated system to make sure there is less human intervention so that everybody that is in the pool gets a chance," she concluded.

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