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Calls mount to freeze R225m chief justice IT tender

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As the probe into a R225 million IT contract at the office of the chief justice (OCJ) unfolds, calls are mounting to suspend the contract, which has been flagged as dodgy.

This follows a Sunday Times report, claiming three former senior employees at the office quit their jobs immediately to become sub-contractors on a tender they had been instrumental in awarding.

The newspaper says former chief financial officer Casper Coetzer, spokesperson and chief director of court administration Nathi Mncube and case management director Yvonne van Niekerk assumed new roles as 30% sub-contractors to Thomson Reuters after playing a part in awarding an R225 million OCJ CaseLines deal to the company.

Thomson Reuters and the implicated former officials have all denied wrongdoing.

CaseLines is a Thomson Reuters-owned cloud-based digital evidence collection and case management platform that allows for court documents to be filed from multiple repositories and disseminated digitally, primarily to officers of the courts.

The IT tender controversy comes as government is leveraging technology to overhaul SA’s criminal justice system.

During the current financial year, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development plans to invest a huge chunk of its budget in technology solutions, which will see the merger of several IT systems of five governmental entities, in efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system.

Yesterday, the office of the chief justice responded to the IT tender outcry, saying it is “currently in the process of gathering all relevant information relating to the matter and is taking legal advice. At the appropriate time, the OCJ will inform the public on the matter. We can assure the public that the state funds relating to this matter are safe.”

In view of this, the OCJ says it will not, at this stage, be making further comments or providing any additional information in this regard.

Nonetheless, pressure group Public Interest SA says the controversial contract must be frozen while the matter is investigated.

“We beseech chief justice Raymond Zondo and National Treasury to suspend performance on this contract (including withholding any disbursements that may have fallen due consequent the commencement of the agreement) pending the conclusion of a thorough investigation of this highly-suspicious deal,” says Public Interest SA.

It adds that should any evidence of corruption be unearthed, criminal complaints against those implicated must be filed.

Tebogo Khaas, founder and chairperson of Public Interest SA, comments: “Thomson Reuters’s claims that they had no contact with the three directors of ZA Square [who were all involved in the pilot project implementation and bid adjudication process] as part of the bid process are as insulting as they are disingenuous.

“We smell a rat! Corrupt practices such as the one alleged on the part of Thomson Reuters are at the root of everything that is wrong with government dealing with multinationals. Black-owned small-medium enterprise and entrepreneurs are often used to open the door for multinationals, while corrupt government officials throw javelins for themselves, friends and families. It stifles small business development and entrepreneurship in the economy.

“That these revelations arise as Zondo’s final report on his state capture commission is about to be released, demands of the chief justice to not only act, but be seen to be acting, swiftly and decisively in stamping out the rot, especially when his office is implicated in any such.

“It is time upright leaders in the public sector send a stern message to multinationals like Thomson Reuters, Bain, McKinsey, Deloitte and SAP that South Africa is no longer a stomping ground for corrupt foreign-based companies and greedy public servants who enable their vice.”

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