The State IT Agency (Sita) has finally explained why it pulled the plug on a government tender, worth up to R1,5bn, to roll out broadband to underserviced parts of the country: none of the bidders qualified.
The tender was the first phase of a network roll-out in terms of government’s South Africa Connect broadband plan to connect underserviced parts of the country to high-speed Internet.
The first phase, for which national treasury has allocated R1,5bn in the current medium-term economic framework, was to be a pilot phase to connect 6 235 government facilities in eight district municipalities.
Phase 2, for which there is no available funding, was to roll out broadband connectivity to 35 211 facilities in the remaining 44 district municipalities by 2020 to meet the South Africa Connect target of 90% population coverage.
Late last week, Sita, which was running the project on behalf of the department of telecommunications & postal services, published a notice in the Government Gazette cancelling the tender for the “appointment of a service provider for the provisioning of broadband connectivity to certain government facilities in eight district municipalities”.
The tender had first been published on 24 June.
Sita said in a statement sent to TechCentral on Tuesday that six companies had bid for the tender, but none had qualified. The six companies that submitted bids are Broadbrand Infraco, EOH Mthombo, MTN, Neotel, Tradepage and Galela Telecommunications (a joint venture), and Vodacom. Reports elsewhere had said incorrectly that the six companies had been shortlisted for the business.
Telkom, which had been expected to be a frontrunner for the project, was not among the bidders. The partially state-owned telecommunications operator had previously been named by President Jacob Zuma as the lead agency for government’s broadband roll-out plan.
The approved specifications for the tender contained six mandatory requirements that needed to be complied with by all bidders, Sita said.
“The agency conducted a screening process in the presence of an independent auditor to ascertain if all the prospective bidders had submitted compliance documentation to proceed to the technical evaluation stage,” it said in the statement.
“At the conclusion of the technical evaluation process, which was also subjected to probity by the independent auditor, none of the six companies that responded to the bid had met all six technical mandatory requirements (bidders were expected to meet ALL six mandatory requirements) to enable them to proceed to the next phase of pricing evaluation,” Sita said. “As such, the bid had to be cancelled in terms … the Sita supply chain management policy.”
In line with this, a decision to cancel was signed off at a meeting of Sita’s board of directors on 19 October. The telecoms department and the six unsuccessful bidders were notified about the decision.
“Realising and acknowledging the importance of South Africa Connect and its intended impact on the achievement of the National Development Plan milestones, Sita and the [department of telecoms]will still meet to discuss and decide on way forward and the public will be kept informed,” the agency said. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media