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Missing master files in dodgy EOH tender baffle Parliament

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JSE-listed technology services company EOH is facing an investigation into a R400 million dodgy tender with the Department of Home Affairs.

In May this year, auditing firm SAB&T was appointed to probe the tender process for the design and roll-out of the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) deployed to the government department by the company.

The contract was for EOH to migrate data on the Home Affairs National Identification System to the new ABIS system.

The contract was processed and awarded by the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs some years ago.

Yesterday, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs was unanimously critical of the delay in concluding an investigation into the missing master files in the ABIS contract with EOH.

The committee says the conclusion of the investigation is integral for effective consequence management and is crucial if the state is to win the fight against corruption.

“We find the delay unfortunate in the context that the committee had made recommendations for the urgent conclusion of the matter,” says advocate Bongani Bongo, chairperson of the committee.

“The fact that the Department of Home Affairs has only in May 2020 appointed SAB&T audit firm to investigate the entire tender process is unsatisfactory in the context that it will delay the conclusion of the investigation and perpetuate irregular expenditure around the contract,” he adds.

The committee believes it has been accommodating to both SITA and the department on the matter, with assurance that the investigation would be concluded.

“We are in agreement that the matter must be dealt with urgently and those that are found to be in the wrong are brought to book,” Bongo emphasises.

The committee also notes it is concerning that SITA, the state’s custodian for technology, could misplace an entire master file.

It points out that this leads to erosion of legitimacy of an important agency within government.

“While the committee welcomes the reform of control measures of its supply chain management, the committee’s patience for the conclusion of this matter has lapsed,” Bongo says.

“As a result, the committee resolved that the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies and SITA must give the committee clear progress in finalising the matter by the first week of October 2020.

“Furthermore, the committee has called for an enhanced collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in finalising the investigation.”

EOH CEO Stephen van Coller recently told ITWeb the company is still looking to clear its corruption-tainted name with more regulatory authorities. Last month, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange fined EOH R7.5 million for falsifying previous financial results.

EOH’s problems surfaced after Microsoft, in February last year, terminated its contract with the IT services company after an anonymous whistle-blower filed a complaint with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission about alleged malfeasance to do with a R120 million contract with the SA Department of Defence.

This led to a forensic investigation by ENSafrica revealing R1.2 billion of suspicious transactions, especially in the public sector.

Since then, the company, led by Van Coller, has tried to rebuild its battered image.

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