The Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa), the body responsible for issuing tenders for the manufacturing of up to 5m government-subsidised digital television set-top boxes, has lashed out at Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn for “casting aspersions” on one of the companies named as a preferred supplier of the boxes.
On Tuesday, Shinn issued a statement in which she said she had “uncovered a press release from Chinese telecommunications giant Shenzhen Skyworth Digital stating that it has, through ‘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 BUA Africa is not one of the 26 South African companies awarded a share of the R4,3bn set-top box manufacturing and distribution tender managed by Usaasa.
“While BUA Africa did attend the 2 December 2015 mandatory briefing for companies interested in tendering, the company’s name is absent from the panel of winning company names that was briefly posted on Usaasa’s website in April,” she said.
“The set-top box manufacturing programme — developed to encourage new black-owned companies to get a foothold in South Africa’s electronic manufacturing industry and to create jobs — has been enveloped in rumours of corruption by politically connected individuals and enterprises almost since inception. It is widely accepted that many of the groupings formed to take advantage of the programme have scant manufacturing experience or the facilities to be viable set-top box producers in the long term,” Shinn said.
“According to BUA Africa Investments company records, the company was registered on 20 May 2014, so could have submitted a tender in its own name before the deadline of 6 January 2015. One of its three directors, Thulani Ngesi, is deputy CEO of Microtronix Manufacturing. Namec Microtronix was the only company to have been awarded a share of all four categories of products comprising the tender. Namec Microtronix has no registered company details. Microtronix attended the mandatory December 2014 briefing.
“It is time for government transparency via frequent communications on the progress of the set-top box order, manufacturing, beneficiary distribution and installation process,” she said.
But Usaasa has hit back at the Shinn, saying it “finds it strange that this member of the telecoms & postal services portfolio committee, who has formed part of all portfolio committee sittings where the outcomes of the set-top box and antenna tenders were discussed, has taken it upon herself to cast malicious doubt on this above-the-board tender process with the sole intention of derailing the process of digital migration so as to open it up to those who were left out”.
“The facts are: Namec Microtronix responded to a tender as published by Usaasa through national newspapers and the Government Gazette. Namec Microtronix subsequently, after being appointed in the panel of service providers to supply and deliver set-top boxes, submitted the name document through following CIPC (the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission) regulations. The new name is BUA Africa. Once again, this information was provided to Shinn.
“We are worried as the agency that there seem to be a malicious … effort by the same source to punch holes in a process that was clean, fair and objective. First she manufactured a story that ‘some’ possible tenderers did not see the tender because it was advertised during the holiday season — by this she was trying to derail our efforts to migrate this country — and now these lies. We see a behaviour from the same source where government is criticised for failure to migrate the country, but at the same time the same source looks for every excuse you can find to derail the migration. Next she is expected to run to the public protector.
“We will not be intimidated by business people masquerading as MPs,” Usaasa said. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media