SITA takes on R10bn project

Johannesburg, 03 Apr 2006
Read time 3min 20sec

The State IT Agency (SITA) is undertaking its biggest project - the establishment of an integrated financial management system (IFMS) for SA's provincial and national government structures.

The project is so big, says SITA CEO Mavuso Msimang, that the agency may have to review its operational model to complete it. Total spend on the proposed IFMS is said to be R10 billion over a seven-year period.

Msimang said in an interview that the project, which was started by National Treasury, was handed over to SITA at the beginning of the year. It will entail the development of a strategy for managing the evolution of government's transversal IT systems, at provincial and national level.

Ultimately, these systems must conform to business and legal requirements in a cost-effective manner, he adds.

The IFMS project is an integration and migration of government finance, human resources, asset management, logistics and other line-of-business solutions, into a single distributed transversal system, Msimang explains. The infrastructure of such a transversal system should support interoperability and leverage e-government opportunities.

Lack of confidence

The project is set to go live in three phases, the first of which - the establishment of user requirement specifications - was completed by National Treasury last year, before the handover to SITA.

Msimang believes the National Treasury initially started the project as there was little confidence at that stage that SITA, as a fairly new organisation, would be able to handle a venture of this magnitude, involving such sensitive information.

"SITA needed time to grow," he says, adding that SITA's recent large-scale restructuring exercise has positioned it to tackle major projects.

This process saw the organisation's executive positions cut from 10 to four in a bid to ensure more effective co-ordination and to break down silos that exist within the core of SITA's revenue-generating business units.

However, in addition to the streamlining of management structures for efficiency and improved service delivery, Msimang points out that the restructuring programme also included a rethink of SITA's approach to partnering with industry.

The introduction of the "Tau model", named after one of SITA's senior executives involved in the restructuring process, will see a different philosophy applied to partnerships with the private sector, whether these take the form of back-to-back agreements, complete outsourcing or public-private partnerships.

Lower capex needs

Msimang explains that the new approach to partnership would not only see a greater reliance on private sector partners, but also a shift of asset and capital requirements to partners involved in SITA projects. This, he says, will markedly lower the organisation's capex needs and provide easier access to private sector expertise.

"In the past, SITA took the SITA Act too literary. We need to provide the mandatory services to government, but the view we now take is that how we deliver these services is a matter of operational preference," Msimang states.

As SITA is starting the second phase of the IFMS project, Msimang notes that private sector companies will complete the bulk of the initiative.

SITA is in the process of identifying several potentially sizable tenders, as it develops and promulgates a detailed stakeholder engagement model.

"We will be looking for some off-the-shelf applications (for the IFMS), but we will also need specific applications to be developed," Msimang says.

The third and final phase of the project will see the initiation of the new system, expected in about 2011 or 2012.

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