The troubled State IT Agency (Sita) is winning the war on the crooks who have been defrauding government. That’s the word from the agency’s CEO, Setumo Mohapi, who held a press conference in Pretoria on Friday to provide an update on the fight to rid the agency of corrupt elements.
Mohapi, who has received death threats for his efforts to clean up Sita, is three years into a major overhaul of organisation. He said about 180 people have either been fired or suspended, or have resigned under a cloud, since the corruption crackdown started.
He said recent reports about endemic corruption at the agency — including a series of in-depth investigative articles by the Daily Maverick — are “not news to us” as much of the information now in the public domain is the result of Sita’s work to stamp out corruption.
“We have known about these things for more than a year now as part of a rather comprehensive effort of cleaning up our organisation,” he told reporters on Friday. Much of the focus has been on corruption at the South African Police Service, including allegedly corrupt contracts with Forensic Data Analysts, a company bought by JSE-listed EOH but later unwound.
Five Sita employees have been fired as a direct result of contracts with FDA, five have resigned and a further five have been suspended.
Mohapi said there was a “critical mass” of people at Sita who were “destroying” the organisation through illegal activities. The agency has uncovered evidence of Sita employees being bribed, including receiving money for “school fees” as well as property and livestock.
“What is in the public domain, largely the facts are true. The story that is being told is true,” he said of the Daily Maverick reports and other articles.
He added that it has been a “lonely journey” working in an environment where corruption had become “entrenched”. And the corruption extended well beyond Sita, to suppliers and other government departments. “Even if you clean up Sita, you are not going to clean up the underlying source of the problem.”
Subculture of corruption
But he said the agency is making good progress in reversing the rot. He said the majority of Sita employees are honest and hardworking. The “subculture” of corruption is “getting smaller and smaller”.
“The loneliness is no longer with the people who want to clean up the place. The loneliness is now with the people who want to keep it dirty.”
Mohapi expressed his gratitude for the support Sita has received from law enforcement agencies and the national commissioner of police. He said the agency also enjoys political backing for its efforts.
He said, too, that government IT systems are “safe” from crooks and are “operating well”.
“We are in control in terms of the culture, ethos and our strategic vision in terms of where we want to go… We are in control technically and we are in control with regard to the ecosystem.”
In a podcast interview with TechCentral in December, Mohapi said he received death threats after he initiated an organisation-wide crackdown on corruption.
Mohapi — who joined Sita in 2015 from Sentech — said he was determined to fix the troubled agency, which is responsible for about R2bn/year in IT procurement spend on behalf of government departments.
Employees were running their own IT companies on the side, and in some cases even saw to it that these companies won lucrative supply deals awarded by the agency, he said.
“We’d find people who wrote business cases and later that business went to companies where there was an association, direct or indirect. We have dealt with it quite heavily. There were a lot of people who were compromised one way or the other inside Sita.”
He vowed to unearth corrupt employees, despite the threats against his life. “If you have been stealing, we will find you,” he said. “When we find you, we will then discipline you. And if you go through that process (and are found guilty), we will fire you.”
If criminality is found, Sita would not hesitate to report employees to the relevant authorities for prosecution, he added.
“We have taken a number of cases to the Hawks. We have companies that have been blacklisted. To the extent that we are required to inform the Assets Forfeiture Unit, we have done that,” he said at the time. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media