The department of telecommunications & postal services on Wednesday kept mum on whether Telkom would be the preferred bidder to supply and maintain a government broadband project in South Africa.
Deputy minister Hlengiwe Mkhize told parliament on Wednesday that the department appointed the State IT Agency (Sita) to facilitate the appointment of a service provider in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act.
In his state of the nation address delivered in 2015, President Jacob Zuma said Telkom would be the “lead agency” in a broadband roll-out project in South Africa.
The announcement raised ire at the time, as stakeholders questioned government’s decision to use Telkom. Fears were also raised about whether government neglected putting the project through a public tender.
But Mkhize said on Wednesday the bidding process has still not been finalised, despite assurances from telecoms & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele.
In response, the DA’s Marianne Shinn asked the deputy minister to give parliament the assurance that Telkom would not be the service provider.
Shinn earlier expressed concern over Telkom’s possible appointment as service provider for the broadband roll-out. She said it would be worrying, as government regards Telkom as a state-owned entity although it’s listed on the JSE.
Government should not own and manage network services, Shinn said, but rather enable private sector players to compete in the environment.
Shinn said she found it puzzling that the announcement of the successful bidder has been delayed.
“The minister said the announcement would be made in October. This should be an open-shut case.”
The deputy minister replied, saying the department has not “deviated” from Zuma’s earlier announcement that Telkom would be responsible for the broadband roll-out.
“But we’ve allowed an independent structure (Sita) to broaden the scope by allowing other players to come forward. I cannot give guarantees as to what is happening with the tender process. That would undermine it,” Mkhize said.