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Budget pressure for phase two of Gauteng broadband project

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The Department of e-Government has refuted fresh claims that management of phase two of the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN) has been handed over to another agency.

According to Adriana Randall, Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng shadow MEC for finance and e-government, the department has turned to the Gauteng Infrastructure Funding Agency (GIFA) to implement phase two of the GBN project.

Randall warns that if handled by GIFA, the second phase of the province’s connectivity project will take a long time to come to fruition, especially given its history of being incapable of bringing projects to a financial close and to the construction stage.

However, the department maintains that implementation of the multibillion-rand project is currently taking place as per the required timeframes, with it still in charge of its management.

In a statement to ITWeb, it says: “There are no plans to hand over phase two implementation of the project to the GIFA.

“As required by legislation (SITA Act), the department requested SITA to implement the GBN phase two project to connect the remaining sites on the 1st April 2019. In the 19/20 financial year (FY), 30 LAN [local area network] and 30 VOIP [voice over Internet Protocol] sites were built and two core sites were upgraded.

“The forecast for 20/21 FY is to upgrade a further two core sites, increase the Internet link to 5Gbps, build 90 LAN sites and 30 VOIP sites.”

Budgetary constraints

The Department of e-Government was mandated to provide broadband connectivity to 3 000 Gauteng provincial government sites. GBN phase one commenced in 2014 and was completed early in 2018, with 1 181 sites connected.

It’s implementation, however, has not been without hiccups, ranging from wasteful expenditure, non-compliance, missed key milestones and disgruntled SMEs crying foul for being side-lined from the lucrative project.

Randall reveals the department’s current budget allocation will only be sufficient for the maintenance of existing sites and not for any new sites planned for in the GBN phase two rollout.

According to Randall, the e-government department revealed this during a finance portfolio committee meeting, which was held to discuss its budget vote.

The department’s budget for the 2020/2021 financial year was adjusted downward to R1.41 billion from R1.42 billion.

However, according to the department, it is in the process of trying to find an alternative budget for the project, notes Randall.

The department admits its current budget allocation to rollout the second phase of the project is limited, indicating that 90% of the current budget is used for maintenance and only 10% is available for new sites.

According to the department, components of GBN phase two include broadband, wide area network and LAN connectivity and the GBN core upgrade, which is required to accommodate the additional sites.

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