Communications minister Faith Muthambi has ignored a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) request for access to a national treasury report into irregularities in the procurement of government-subsidised digital television set-top boxes, Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn said on Thursday.
Shinn said in a statement that Muthambi has ignored her application, despite earlier promising to make the report available. She said that at a joint meeting of parliament’s telecommunications & postal services and communications committees, the minister said she would make the report available.
According to Shinn, Muthambi received the report in March 2016.
“She has reneged on this undertaking to the committees. On 12 October, I lodged a Paia application with the department of communications [but] there has been no response, despite a follow up e-mail in November requesting one,” Shinn said in the statement.
According to information disclosed online by the department of communications, the report was done by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of national treasury.
“Muthambi requested the probe after I raised concerns about the tender allocations to three South African electronics ‘manufacturers’,” Shinn said.
“What Muthambi has made public about the probe — but chose not to share with the committees on 16 October despite having the information to hand — is that the process by which the producers of the set-top boxes were selected is riddled with irregularities and exorbitant, escalating costs. These include serious breaches of supply chain management policies, national treasury regulations and the Public Finance Management Act; contracts going to the highest bidder; alarming cost escalations; tender specifications being adapted after publication; and prices for set-top box production being adjusted upwards.”
Shinn, citing figures from the Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa), said the cost of each subsidised set-top box with installation has escalated to R1 670. Usaasa is the government entity responsible for managing the set-top box process.
“The retail cost of a similar installation is about R599,” she said. That means that the subsidised set-top box installation is almost three times the retail cost and is a shocking cost escalation.
“Muthambi has given no indication that she is taking action on the findings of the national treasury report and whether any officials are being held accountable, whether any of the orders lodged with the three companies are being reviewed or cancelled, or whether any action is being taken against any of the contracted service providers to the tender process are being brought to book.”
TechCentral has asked Muthambi’s spokesman, Mish Molakeng, for comment. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media