SITA rules out open source, seeks bespoke solution for DMRE

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The State IT Agency (SITA) is advertising a tender for the design, implementation, and maintenance of an enterprise software solution for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The tender, RFB 896, will run for a period of two years, followed by an additional three years of post implementation support services.

In its documentation, SITA explains that the department is currently running on client server technology where applications are not integrated, most processes are manual and running on obsolete software.

“The DMRE therefore seeks to simplify and integrate the processes involved in attracting and supporting existing and prospective investors through the licensing value chain, interface seamlessly with other government entities and partners for optimum development and management of the sector, reduce turnaround time, enforce ease of compliance by industry and transparency,” it says.

As such, DMRE requires a standardised technological platform which will provide 'seamless automated' services to its clients, partners and employees as per the value chain and enterprise architecture.

Notably, the agency states: “No open-source solutions will be considered, and the end product (intellectual property) must the owned by the department.”

Bespoke not always best

The decision to pursue a custom-made solution comes as a surprise as SITA has encountered difficulty with such projects, most notably the first iterations of the integrated financial management system (IFMS).

Approved in 2005, the IFMS project aimed to secure a bespoke integrated solution for national and provincial government, incorporating supply chain management, financial management, HR management, payroll, inventory and business intelligence. Following numerous delays and integration difficulties, the project was amended to allow for a hybrid solution that made use of both custom-developed solutions as well as customised-off-the-shelf (COTS) software.

Almost a decade into the project, however, SITA – alongside oversight partners, National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration – admitted that the project was no longer feasible and that government needed to return to the drawing board, despite having spent in excess of R1 billion.

In fairness, a direction change which saw government pursuing a “tier one ERP commercial-off-the-shelf solution" has also not produced the expected outcome which is needed to tighten financial control, eradicate corruption and improve public sector efficacy.

Instead, at the beginning of the year, president Cyril Ramaphosa instructed the Special Investigating Unit to investigate investigate contracts around the controversial project, going back as far as 1 January 2016, the same year National Treasury announced it had awarded the ERP software tender to Oracle.

Bespoke software can offer many advantages, including the ability to tailor the solution to effectively meet all your needs, rather than having to make do with what is available in the market. It can also offer long term cost savings through the elimination of licensing and usage premiums, as well as security advantages as hackers are often more interested in breaking into COTS solutions as they are more broadly used.

On the other hand, custom-made software is not without its drawbacks. Most often mentioned is the high upfront cost and the time it takes for the solution to be completed. Another area of difficulty, as SITA discovered with the initial stages of IFMS, is ensuring interoperability. This is particularly the case when the system is required to integrate with diverse software solutions.

One stop shop

SITA's tender documentation makes it clear that DMRE requires a solution that is accessible from and can integrate with several other systems.

In fact the agency says: “The solution should present a one stop shop where services rendered by the DMRE can be accessed, monitored and maintained. As one of the strategic departments, the DMRE endeavours to deploy an integrated enterprise solution which will simplify and improve efficiency of services rendered to the mining and energy industries and the South African citizens.”

It specifies that DMRE is currently using Microsoft and all proposed solutions must be compatible. It adds the proposed solution must interface with geographic information system (GIS) for spatial data management by ESRI, payment gateway MyGate and SETCOM and other revenue collection methods.

The successful bidder must also ensure the solution is accessible from a number of technologies, such as MacOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, computational science software and search engines – and must be application and platform agnostic and “further enable modern workplace especially field workers”.

Interested parties will need to meet the minimum threshold of 70% for functionality in the “Desk Top” portion of the evaluation in order to proceed to the “Proof of Concept Presentation” stage. The closing date for bids is 20 August 2021.

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