AG questions R500m schools IT tender

OCTOBER 27, 2014

Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu has reportedly asked for a probe into a R518 million deal to provide tablets and Internet access to Gauteng schools, according to a report.

The R518 million project will be investigated for potential violations of procurement processes, according to a report published on Monday by Timeslive.

The website said that the auditor-general has flagged the project for tender irregularities and instructed the Gauteng department of finance to begin a probe.

According to the report, the auditor-general had found that bid specifications had been altered. This, it said, was an indication that conditions of the original tender may have been changed to favour successful bidders, Cloudseed and Huawei.

“Contracts relating to the e-learning devices and the e-learning connectivity were awarded to bidders based on points given for criteria that differed from those stipulated in the original invitation for bidding, in contravention of treasury regulation 16A6.3 (a) and preferential procurement regulations,” the report quotes the auditor-general as saying.

The project, introduced last year – when it was valued at R396 million (R289 million for the tablets and R107 million for network lease costs) – was designed to replace the controversy-ridden R2 2 billion Gauteng Online. At the time, it was set to involve the roll-out of 88 000 Android-powered Huawei tablet computers to 2 200 government schools.

Under the plan, Huawei would provide each of the schools with 40 10-inch tablets, which would remain the property of the Gauteng government.

With the original Gauteng Online project, Cloudseed (formerly SMMT) was appointed to manage the project. Government leased hardware from Cloudseed and relied on the company for connectivity, but it failed to connect 500 of the 2 200 schools it was meant to serve. Despite its dissatisfaction with Cloudseed’s performance in the past, the province again awarded the company a tender, although this time for providing connectivity only.

The provincial government’s head of finance, Stuart Lumka, said last year that Cloudseed won the contract in an open tender and was appointed because it came in at the lowest price.