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SITA seeks answers from Micro Focus over R364m disputed tender

Read time 5min 00sec
Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies Pinky Kekana. (Photo credit: GCIS)
Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies Pinky Kekana. (Photo credit: GCIS)

The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) has summoned UK-based software provider Micro Focus to explain the reasons behind the termination of a R364 million disputed IT contract.

This after deputy communications and digital technologies minister Pinky Kekana’s name was dragged into a dispute over the multimillion-rand contract by a Sunday Times report this week.

According to the report, Kekana used her influence on UK-based software and IT solutions provider Micro Focus to cancel its contract with local company, Afrocentric Projects and Services, and award it to another local firm, X Telecoms.

Afrocentric was appointed in November last year as one of the fulfilment agents for the framework agreement between Micro Focus and SITA, which is estimated to be worth $25 million (about R364 million), the report says.

However, it notes Afrocentric’s two-year contract was terminated “without cause” eight months later.

According to the report, Kekana then advised Micro Focus on which local company to appoint as its local partner.

The Sunday Times understands that Micro Focus forwarded the name of X Telecoms, owned by Johannesburg business person Khethi Nkosi, as Afrocentric’s preferred replacement.

The paper says Nkosi confirmed his company had been approached by Micro Focus but denied Kekana had anything to do with it.

When contacted for comment, Gary de Menezes, Micro Focus country general manager for SA, told ITWeb the company “should have a response to this story this week”.

Kekana was a guest speaker at a Micro Focus event hosted late last month, with ITWeb being a media partner.

Shareholder meeting

SITA acting CEO Mimi Le Roux tells ITWeb that SITA is the agency which the South African government has created and entrusted with ICT procurement and the transformation of the sector, as the country integrates into a globalised economy.

According to Le Roux, the agency met last week with its shareholder on the matter of the British multinational software and information technology firm Micro Focus terminating Afrocentric as a fulfilment agent.

“The matter is getting the attention it deserves, as SITA remains committed to its role of co-ordinating information technology resources to ensure transformation, increased SMME development, access to opportunities and transparency as we execute on our role, as these values are enshrined within the South African constitution,” she says.

“On 11 July 2019, SITA was formally notified that Micro Focus is terminating its relationship with Afrocentric. No reasons were provided, and SITA was not consulted.”

Le Roux explains that SITA subsequently, on 4 August 2019, formally requested Micro Focus to provide the organisation with reasons for the cancellation of the contract between Micro Focus and Afrocentric. The process of the appointment of a new fulfilment agency has not been concluded, she notes.

“SITA has invited Micro Focus to a meeting to discuss the reasons for the termination and the process going forward.

“The OEM [original equipment manufacturer] framework agreements that SITA enters into are important and are instrumental in contributing to transformation within the ICT sector. As these engagements unfold, it remains important that service delivery continues optimally.”

Contacted for comment, Kekana’s spokesperson, Zandile Ngubeni, told ITWeb: “Unfortunately, the deputy minister is not in a position to give a statement regarding the Sunday Times article at this current stage. As soon as she is in a position to do so, we will gladly share it with you.”

#HandsOffKekana

Meanwhile, lobby group the Progressive Blacks in ICT (PBICT), which represents over 2 000 members, has sprung to Kekana’s defence in the disputed tender.

Leon Rolls, president of the PBICT, says: “We have read this [Sunday Times] article and are very disappointed in that the journalist did not take a deep dive into the article and in the process missed a very good story.

“The tendency of being blinded by head-hunting women in power and tarnishing their reputation is an obsession amongst some journalist[s] that has become a very brutal and sexist sport.”

Rolls notes the PBICT is part of the SITA Black Business Industry Transformation Unit that was established to assist the IT agency with transformation and among these is the review of these very biased OEM framework agreements.

These agreements are the very reason why SITA fails to meet its transformation targets, he adds.

“We have reasons to believe that some SMMEs and SITA executives – current and former – have found a back door into aligning themselves and friends with these OEMs, just for self and greedy beneficiation. The real rot will be exposed through balanced journalism and reporting.”

Rolls points out the PBICT model is very different in that it identifies the best SMMEs and lobbies for them to gain access into opportunities and once in, they open doors for all SMMEs.

“In the case of Micro Focus, we identified Cde Khethi [Nkosi] as our point man for Micro Focus, given that he worked for them as an employee for years and has a long and very reputable relationship with them. He was initially Micro Focus’s preference before some shenanigans took place. This is good news for us as it will open opportunities for all our SMMEs as PBICT. We must mention that Khethi is one of our members.

“To those out there we [are] saying to you: hands off our commander and chief Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as well as her deputy, Pinky Kekana.”

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