SITA takes hard-line stance on EOH as it moots blacklisting

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The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) insists EOH will not be absolved from the possibility of being blacklisted, as it was the main beneficiary of unscrupulous government contracts.

SITA’s stance to consider blacklisting EOH follows recent revelations that some of the company’s public sector contracts were tainted by wrongdoing, or criminal conduct in the acquisition, award or execution of contracts.

Resultantly, SITA believes EOH must account for the wrongdoing, as the company benefited the most from government work, rather than its former executives.

EOH has blamed previous executives for the company’s polluted relationship with government and last week filed a multibillion-rand lawsuit against Asher Bohbot, founder and former CEO; John King, former CFO; Jehan Mackay, former head of public sector; and Ebrahim Laher, former head of EOH International.

In an interview with ITWeb yesterday, SITA executive caretaker Luvuyo Keyise confirmed the agency had demanded the embattled company provide reasons why it should not be blacklisted from government contracts because it reaped the most financial rewards from the dodgy public sector contracts.

He explains: “I can confirm that is what I did write to them, to ask them to provide us with mitigation; reasons why they should not be blacklisted by government for corrupt tenders that they were involved in, because even if you blame the previous people that have left the company, the company still benefitted.

“The SITA rationale is that if that’s the case, it means any company will enter into corrupt practices and when they are found with their hands in the cookie jar, then they will fire everyone and say ‘Mr Government’ don’t do anything with us because everyone else who was involved is gone.”

Yesterday, EOH defended its position, saying it must be exempted from blacklisting as it has been cooperative with all government agencies that have been working to dismantle the web of corruption.

“The new leadership embarked on over 100 man-hours of presentations and meetings with authorities, regulators, customers, partners and financial institutions to explain our situation. In all instances, we were given the green light to continue as is, although in some cases, we needed to show continual improvement. This process is largely over now.”

In a statement, it added: “EOH has, to date, been following the due process as set out by SITA and is similar to other processes we have successfully completed with other stakeholders. We have made our representations and followed all the required guidelines in this regard.

“SITA must now follow due process and make its recommendations to the Department of National Treasury. Due to the fact that this matter is now attracting media attention, EOH is providing clarity regarding its multiple engagements with SITA to date.”

According to EOH, Steven Powell, head of forensic investigation at ENSafrica, actively engaged with the SITA internal audit executive, as well as the SITA governance, risk and compliance executive.

In addition, EOH says, correspondence was sent to Keyise on 5 March 2019 and again on 20 April 2021, explaining the extensive remediation and governance enhancement work implemented within EOH by the new EOH board and management.

Notwithstanding the clean-up efforts by EOH, Keyise believes the company cannot be absolved from its previous corrupt contracts.

“The company, not the individual, did benefit from corrupt contracts practices, from over-pricing, and everything else, so there is no logic that we should leave the company alone.”

However, Keyise adds: “Government should be mindful of the fact that the company is doing a lot of things to improve its ethical culture, when government takes a decision on whether they should be blacklisted or how long they blacklist them.

“Government should be mindful of the work the new management has done; however, that does not absolve the company from the possibility of being blacklisted in line with applicable legislation. A decision on whether they should be blacklisted, or for how long, will be communicated in due course.”

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