/ 1 April 2010

Costly IT system stands idle

A costly information technology system, on which government spent part of a R25-million allocation to improve the daily running of municipalities, is gathering dust — because officials were not trained to use it.

Nehawu set to fight department restructuring

Service provider AloeCap was also allowed to exceed the contract price by more than R658 000, expenditure that was approved by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’s former deputy director general — now its director general — Elroy Africa.

A forensic report found that Africa approved the over-spend when he was deputy director general for systems and capacity building, without the approval of his director general in the former department of provincial affairs and local government, Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela or the adjudication committee. The report recommended that the department institute disciplinary proceedings against him.

The Mail & Guardian has learned that although the audit report, by external audit company Sizwe Ntsaluba, was handed to the new political heads of the department a year ago, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka has not acted on its recommendations.

Departmental spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika said the department had found no ‘compelling [or] prima facie evidence” to take Africa to task. ‘It was accepted that the former DDG: systems and capacity building approved the last payment to AloeCap on the reasonable assurance that the [chief financial officer] and chairperson of the bid adjudication committee acted in terms of the relevant supply chain and administrative policies and procedures of the department.”

The system was installed between 2003 and 2005 by the. But officials that it was intended for still had no clue how to use it by last year. It was meant to assist in the monitoring of municipalities and provide an early warning on emerging problems to enable the department to intervene.

The department’s IT audit report of 2007 and Sizwe Ntsaluba found that the computer program was not usable because, among other things, training had not been provided to staff to enable the department to support operational activities for which it was developed.

The auditors found that the system could not be maintained or improved by the department’s IT unit, which lacked the source codes that would have allowed them to enhance the program.

Sizwe Ntsaluba was commissioned to investigate alleged irregularities in the awarding of the contract to AloeCap, and in carrying out the probe interviewed departmental officials about the functionality of the system. Officials said skills transfer to municipal employees through training and mentoring had not taken place as expected.

During the forensic investigation AloeCap argued that the department could not blame the service provider as it had failed to make its officials available for training. Vuyela Vika defended the department, insisting the program was ‘beneficial”. She said the key contract awarded to AloeCap was for monitoring the financial viability of municipalities and not necessarily to develop a system that would accomplish this.

AloeCap had delivered on the full project, she said. Other contractual requirements included data analysis and advice to municipalities. Vika said the information from the database was used to conceptualise and launch Project Consolidate, designed to enable higher levels of government to troubleshoot in local authorities.

Last year a report commissioned by Shiceka on the state of local government showed that municipalities are struggling with financial management. Despite running for at least four years and deploying 1 134 experts by 2008, Project Consolidate has not yielded the expected results.