The Department of Home Affairs and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) faced criticism from the parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs in a meeting on Tuesday 25 August.
The committee was unanimously critical of the delay in concluding an investigation into missing “master files” for tender that involved migrating data on the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) to a new Automated Biometric Information System (ABIS).
This tender was awarded by Sita to EOH in 2017 and was worth R409 million.
Speaking during the parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday, Sita said that EOH had wanted to hand the contract over to a subcontractor, a request which the agency would not accept as it was irregular.
The committee also lambasted Sita for losing the tender’s master file, stating that it is concerning that the state’s custodian for technology could misplace a document this crucial to affirming the legitimacy of a contract.
It noted that the Department of Home Affairs only appointed an audit firm to investigate the EOH tender in May 2020, stating that this delay was unfortunate.
“We find the delay unfortunate in the context that the committee had made recommendations for the urgent conclusion of the matter,” committee chairperson Bongani Bongo said.
“The fact that the Department of Home Affairs has only in May 2020 appointed SAB&T audit firm to investigate the entire tender process is unsatisfactory in the context that it will delay the conclusion of the investigation and perpetuate irregular expenditure around the contract.”
Patience running thin
The committee noted that the loss of the master file by Sita has led to an erosion of its legitimacy, adding that it believes it has been accommodating to both Sita and the Department of Home Affairs and the assurances from both that the investigation should be concluded.
“We are in agreement that the matter must be dealt with urgently and those that are found to be in the wrong are brought to book,” Bongo said.
The committee added that while it welcomes the reform of control measures of its supply chain management, its “patience for the conclusion of this matter has lapsed”.
It has subsequently stated that the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies, and Sita must give the committee clear progress in finalising the matter by the first week of October 2020.
“Furthermore, the committee has called for enhanced collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in finalising the investigation,” it said.
According to a report by EWN, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told the committee that he would not let this issue go.
“We can’t let this matter slip through our fingers, we can’t let it go,” he said.
“I am as angry as members here because I am now being dragged in front of this committee to try and answer questions about the deeds of other people.”
The report noted that Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was unable to attend the meeting.