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Madonsela tackles home affairs

Jan 22 2012 13:45 Adriaan Basson and Xolani Mbanjwa

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Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has started on her next big investigation: a “flawed” R2.4bn tender to revolutionise the home affairs department.

Madonsela has confirmed that she has appointed a team of investigators to probe the controversial Who Am I Online tender, awarded by home affairs to listed IT firm Gijima in 2007.

The tender was originally awarded for R1.9bn in 2007, but the cost increased to R4.5bn before it was cancelled by Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2010.

One of Madonsela’s focus points will be whether Gijima chief executive Jonas Bogoshi was conflicted when, as chief of strategic services at the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), he participated in awarding the tender to Gijima and joined the company less than 12 months later.

Gijima is chaired and partly owned by businessman Robert Gumede, who is a known ANC benefactor.

Home affairs and Gijima reached a settlement last year, in which the value of the tender was reduced to R2.4bn and both parties agreed to bear the financial brunt.

Auditor general Terence Nombembe disclosed this week that home affairs wrote off R321m as unauthorised expenditure due to the Gijima settlement.

This was the single biggest contributor to the department incurring R1bn in unauthorised, irregular and wasteful expenditure in 2010/11.

This also made home affairs the national department that recorded the highest percentage of wasted expenditure – 16% of its R6.5bn yearly budget was either wasted or spent irregularly.

Despite this, Nombembe lauded home affairs for improved performance and for receiving an unqualified audit opinion.

Gijima previously reported a loss of R374m due to settlement expenses. Home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni told City Press on Friday the settlement with Gijima had no effect on the continuation of forensic probes into the tender.

Nombembe’s office, on the request of former home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, originally investigated the process that led to the awarding of the tender and provided a report to her in February 2009.

Mapisa-Nqakula subsequently handed the auditor general’s report to independent forensic analyst Professor Harvey Wainer, who finalised his report in December 2009.

In early 2010 the contract was cancelled – partly because a central feature of the tender, the processing of online visa applications, was not ready in time for the Soccer World Cup tournament.

Apleni said they decided to temporarily stop the investigation while negotiations with Gijima got under way after the World Cup.

“But negotiations can’t mean that when you find irregularities in the process, you will put them under the carpet,” he said.

After a settlement was reached, home affairs went back to Wainer, who advised them to take the matter to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) or police as he had no powers to subpoena.

At the same time Madonsela received a complaint from a member of the public and requested documentation on the matter from home affairs. She was provided with the auditor general and Wainer’s reports.

“We can’t go to the SIU or police while the public protector is investigating. Let’s wait for the public protector to investigate the matter and come back to us,” Apleni said.

The auditor general’s report, of which City Press has
obtained a copy, confirms Apleni’s views that the contracting process was flawed.

Noseweek first revealed that the report, marked “strictly confidential”, identified several flaws in the tendering process administered by Sita for home affairs. Thirteen of 27 prescripts evaluated by the auditor general were not complied with.

Non-compliance included that no business agreement existed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of parties; one of Gijima’s sub-contractors submitted an invalid tax clearance certificate and a competitor, Ideco, scored the highest points for the first part of the evaluation but was not recommended due to incomplete pricing information. Gijima also submitted pricing information that was incomplete.

The auditor general also noted Bogoshi’s jump from Sita to Gijima nine months after serving on the committee that recommended Gijima for the tender.

 - City Press

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