Investigation launched into set-top box tender - TechCentral

Investigation launched into set-top box tender

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South Africa’s television set-top box tender is coming under the spotlight as an investigation has been launched into its procurement process.

Replying to questions from an ANC member in the national council of provinces in parliament on Thursday, the department of communications said allegations of Chinese imports have sparked a wider investigation.

Earlier this year, the Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa), which reports into the department of telecommunications & postal services, awarded South Africa’s R4,3bn set-top box tender to 26 bidders.

Set-top boxes will decode digital signals for analogue television sets when South Africa makes its broadcast switchover. Government plans to subsidise these devices for 5m poorer households.

The department’s investigation comes after Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn said in September that her party had discovered a press release from Chinese telecommunications firm Shenzhen which said “its factory in Johannesburg — co-owned by local company BUA Africa — successfully completed its first shipment, delivering a total of 70 000 set-top boxes across South Africa”.

Shinn said that BUA Africa is not one of the 26 South African companies awarded the set-top box tender. Also, South Africa’s tender further requires that 30% of the devices must be South African sourced.

“These allegations further warrants the department to institute a formal investigation into the entire process of the procurement of set-top boxes, antennae and satellite dishes by Usaasa,” said the department of communications in its reply in the national council of provinces.

“We have engaged the services of the national treasury, in particular the fraud and risk unit, to conduct an investigation into the procurement process,” said the department.

Department of communications spokesman Mishack Molakeng did not want to comment further on the probe.

Meanwhile, Usaasa CEO Zami Nkosi said on Friday that BUA Africa was formerly known as South Africa’s Namec Microtronix, one of the set-top box tender winners.

He also commented on the planned probe. “The department has not communicated its intentions to us. However, Usaasa is a public entity entrusted with public funds that is not opposed to any form of scrutiny,” Nkosi said.

Communications minister Faith Muthambi

Communications minister Faith Muthambi

“We will open ourselves up and co-operate with whoever will conduct this investigation,” said Nkosi.

Meanwhile, the DA’s Marian Shinn has welcomed the probe.

“The rumours of imported set-top boxes from China has been the most persistent one during the past few years, so I am delighted that the minister has seen fit to contemplate starting an investigation into this,” Shinn said.

“But it seems from the reply that this investigation may not uncover the full truth as she refers to investigating the ‘procurement process’. I would like to see the full terms of national treasury’s investigation before being too optimistic that it will uncover the full truth. I would have liked her to initiate an open and independent investigation into the whole supply chain process in the manufacture and assembly of the set-top boxes,” Shinn added.

The planned probe is just the latest in a series of controversies regarding South Africa’s digital migration process.

Earlier this month, the ANC’s communications subcommittee chair Jackson Mthembu said that the ruling party planned to have an “urgent”  meeting with communications minister Faith Muthambi over her decisions regarding set-top box encryption.

The ANC had previously called for the boxes to carry encryption — a technology that is said to protect content from being pirated, help boost free-to-air broadcasters in providing quality content and enable switching off of stolen boxes.

However, Muthambi earlier this year changed South Africa’s broadcast digital migration policy to ensure that the subsidised set-top boxes don’t require encryption.

In June, the high court also ruled against broadcaster e.tv’s challenge of Muthambi’s decision not to encrypt set-top boxes.

Judge WRC Prinsloo in his judgment sided with public broadcaster, the SABC, and M-Net’s arguments that encryption would add to government’s costs for the 5m subsidised devices and that it’s not needed for high-definition content.

Amid the wrangling among broadcasters, South Africa in June 2015 missed an International Telecommunication Union deadline to switch over to digital broadcasts. South Africa committed to the ITU to do the switchover in 2006.

Digital migration is key to South Africa’s efforts to shift broadcasters off analogue frequenciees that in turn can be used for faster broadband services.  — Fin24

20 Comments

  1. Scrap the whole program of Government control of manufacturing, distribution of STBs, and the handing out of 5 or 6m sets as freebies to the indigent ASAP
    I always felt that is the most ludicrous, unnecessary part of this whole Digital Drama, the Digital Migration.And it proves indeed to be the major source of delays, corruption and massive costs.
    Or even better, scrap the whole DTT, Digital Migration, and use satellite only for old fashioned unidirectional TV broadcasts.
    Sentech can scrap its Freevision sat platform, and dismantle all its DVB-T2 equipment on their towers, and auction it off.

  2. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>The planned probe is just the latest in a series of controversies regarding South Africa’s digital migration process.

    Can we just get going with the freeing-up of spectrum and forget about this ludicrous subsidy plan…

    …last I checked, there was some students on a #FeesMustFall campaign that would be more deserving of this money than some “gravy train tenderprenuer, taxpayer money thieves”

  3. Why is govermunt so stupid to fall for Faith’s Fantasies. Somewhere massive favours and kickbacks have been promised. What Gov’munt missed is the fact that with encryption govt depts could have totally secure video conferences for no cost saving millions in travel costs. They could also have stregic international link ups with all international depts included. The other benefits of protecting the free to air and community services giving access to high quality programming at a better price than national u encryoted free to air would get. Decisions defy logic.

  4. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Shame, another who had their eggs in that CA basket;

    …everything that you highlight reflects the thinking of one who does not have the money to fund their commercial aspirations and is hoping to fool the taxpayer into covering the costs –

    It’s not going to be happening… now live with it.

    >>govt depts could have totally secure video conferences for no cost saving millions in travel costs.

    What BS, video conferencing involves two way communications; and how were you going to achieve such on a linear broadcast platform with CA…???

    I can sell you either a Tandberg or Polycom solution if you want to learn about secure video conferencing… now voetsek!! and go show-off your ignorance elsewhere.

  5. This is why we support the ANC: “Replying to questions from an ANC member in the national council of provinces in parliament on Thursday, the department of communications said allegations of Chinese imports have sparked a wider investigation.
    An ANC member was man enough to ask tough questions. Unlike most who are following and believing blindly.
    Gov should launch digital migration in the private sector. Set top boxes are now available for R100 to R150. TV’s are now manufactured with built in DVB-T2 decoders.
    We are waiting for another clever ANC member to see the value of conditional access and a return path. Conditional access will protect the local film and video producers. Conditional access will also provide new channels with high quality content with copyright protection.
    Gov should get rid of fraud, greed and bad decision makers.

  6. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>This is why we support the ANC:

    LMAO!! You have revealed your true colors right here on TC, so many times pal… now go back to all those posts, where you were talking about just how cheap and affordable that CA system of yours is;

    …and then check the amended policy – it does allow you to include CA; so how is it that you are not able to pay for that very cheap CA that you carried on about…???

    >>We are waiting for another clever ANC member

    There has always been plenty of intelligent ANC members… shows just how little you actually know – and the amended policy reflects exactly that;

    …and such self serving commercial interests of attempting to have taxpayer money funding the obvious aspirations of those who can’t compete in the marketplace with Multichoice are the practice of the juDAs kind, like yourself.

  7. RDP housing, conditional access, hospitals, roads, etc are all common contributions with tax money.
    Our own, true, ANC members voted YES for conditional access to develop our local film and video industries.
    Poor people should get RDP houses. Poor people should also get high quality television channels.

  8. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    What happened to that cheap CA that you carried on about and why are you not able to pay for it and include it…???

    Are you still having a problem with English or is the question exposing you for the bullsh*ter, that we all know you to be…???

  9. Vusi. You a weirdo. Any case, we are meeting our good people in the ANC to support CA. You are definitely not so stupid and ignorant to think that this new investigation is not managed?

  10. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    All that’s going to be happening going forwards Antonio is that this subsidy plan is going to be scrapped…

    …and you and your friends will become even less popular with the other greedy tenderprenuers that want to just move on and make the quick buck with the amended policy as is;

    …you are quite the idiot to think that there’s anyone entertaining the funding of CA more especially with all the recent protests;

    …the behavior of a LOSER is such that; time and time again you’ll keep trolling about your return path allegations; cheap CA that you are unable to pay for yourself; and the same BS as Shinn, claiming to know the on-goings within the ANC.

    BTW what happened in that urgent meeting with the minister that you were so sure was going to be proving your point…???

  11. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    That’s exactly what you’ll get when your comments represent what would be expelled from the backside of the “tokoloshe” with the green hat that’s bent over in a “mooning” pose which you choose to be your avatar… BTW nice heels 🙂

  12. William Stucke on

    “An ANC member was man enough to ask tough questions. Unlike most ANC members who are following and believing blindly.”
    There. I fixed it for you. 😉
    And, like most ANC members who step out of line and ask difficult questions, he’ll probably regret it, sorry to say.

  13. Vusi – try to concentrate on the issue at hand: “Replying to questions from an ANC member in the national council of provinces in parliament on Thursday, the department of communications said allegations of Chinese imports have sparked a wider investigation.”
    It is all part of a bigger plan.

  14. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    You just love quoting; and dropping names; and making like you are in with those in positions of influence…

    How about you try this…???

    Switch on the grey matter upstairs;

    Yes! It might be painful at first from the lack of usage – but once you manage to get ignition, you’ll realize that you need to find something else to pursue;

    There isn’t going to be a change in the amended policy and you need to learn to differentiate between government and the ANC.

    Government works for the interests of all South Africans and whilst we would’ve wished for the land to be transferred to the people without compensation; have labor brokers abolished; have free education; and miners getting a minimum 12K; amongst various other things demanded by the people that would also be outlined in the Freedom Charter –

    …those things would belong to an ANC agenda; and government is at the Union Buildings represented by cabinet; and at Parliament represented by MPs; as well as the NCOP.

    So you can chat all you want with the ANC; but what counts at the end of the day is the policy which is gazetted after going through all of government;

    …it’s really funny that you would make as if you know the on-goings within the ANC when history has proven that not even a president of the ANC can say with certainty what those who have the power to influence the masses on the ground will do.

    Now, I do know that you and your friends are already unpopular with many;

    …and judging by how those Namec clowns behave, you would be well advised to invest in a bullet-proof vest when government decides that after all your antics, what will be in the best interest of not having the country being held back by a single broadcaster –

    …the best way forward will be to scrap the subsidy plan;

    …oh and don’t worry, there isn’t going to be a change in the amended policy, so you can make that cheap CA of yours available to your friends for them to include in their STBs.

  15. Vusi – you are missing the point – again: “The ANC had previously called for the boxes to carry encryption — a technology that is said to protect content from being pirated, help boost free-to-air broadcasters in providing quality content and enable switching off of stolen boxes.”
    Seems you just can not understand the benefits of conditional access?

  16. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    You really do have a problem with English don’t you…???

    >>”The ANC had previously called for the boxes to carry encryption

    The ANC can call for whatever it wants, just like Juju in the EFF as well as the DA and even COPE for that matter;

    The government on the other has to do what’s in the best interests of the country;

    …the amended policy as it stands is in the best interest of the country – and if you want CA on FTA signals, you can pay for it yourself and include;

    I’ve already given a lesson about broadcasting and I noted that soon afterwards, in the fashion that you always so predictably resort to, you were making as if you had always maintained the same position – I know a whole lot more than you do about the benefits of CA;

    The reason why you and your friends are persisting with this is obvious to all; and the government cannot allow this country to be turned into an island just to create an electronics industry of manufactures who have already shown that they’ll just be bringing STBs from China –

    …and are just hoping to string-on some CA onto the boxes that compels South Africans to buy their products.

    I’ve warned you… find something else to pursue!!

  17. Before you start commenting without facts please research properly. The shoes are not of tokoloshes or any unheard monster.

  18. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    LOL… tokoloshes/elves – same difference; but differing cultural mythology and folklore. It still deserves to get an All Blacks, Dan Carter drop kick on the backside; to send it straight back from where it came 🙂

  19. Andrew Fraser on

    Sorry, I thought it was the DA that identified he problem – an ANC member just asked a question about the issue. At least the DoC responds to ANC members…

    While admirable, I do feel sorry for that poor ANC member that raised the issue though. He or she is going to find out that following your conscience is not a good career move in the current kleptocracy.