The public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, can no longer ignore the Democratic Alliance’s request for a probe into the procurement process of the government-sponsored set-top-boxes — a key component of the broadcast digital migration process.
The DA has written to the Public Protector once again to request that she proceeds with the investigation without further delay as it seems the migration process is marred by irregularity and corruption, which needs to be urgently investigated.
The DA’s initial request to the public protector, acknowledged on 8 August 2017, was for her office to:
- Probe the procurement process for the government-subsidised set-top boxes;
- Investigate alleged tender irregularities and possible unlawful decision making;
- Determine whether the entire migration process needs to be cancelled and re-run; and
- Recommend disciplinary action or actions by the police or other investigatory bodies to further probe the process and pursue possible criminal acts.
Yet, three months later and there seems to be little to no progress.
This past week, the Gupta Leaks e-mails revealed how Tony Gupta acted as a channel between MultiChoice — a key protagonist in the set-top box encryption battle — and former communications minister Faith Muthambi to change the migration policy in MultiChoice’s favour, which she did.
Today it has come to light that the Hawks raided 13 of the 26 firms involved in the set-top box tender, following a 10-month investigation by the Competition Commission into collusion in the process.
These revelations, in conjunction with the PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation into the process, clearly indicate serious procurement irregularities or criminal acts had been committed and must been acted upon.
The PwC report that was forwarded to the telecommunications & postal services minister, who has administrative authority of the migration programme while the communications minister has executive authority over it, has not been acted upon because “it is a draft”.
Clearly, there’s something in the report that Muthambi and telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele do not want the public to see.
Repeated requests to the chairpersons of the communications and telecoms & postal services portfolio committees to hold two-day hearings into the entire migration process have also failed to materialise, despite being included in the committee programmes of each term this year.
In August 2017, universal service agency Usaasa applied to the high court in Pretoria for a declarator order to declare the tender process unlawful and to set aside the purchase orders as there were irregularities — and possibly criminal acts — in the awarding of the tenders. The matter is still to be heard.
The DA we will not be deterred by the obvious tactics to sweep the irregularities and corruption in the broadcasting digital migration process under the rug.
- Marian Shinn is a DA MP and the party’s spokeswoman on telecoms & postal services