Business

Eastern Cape, Sita strike a deal on multimillion rand broadband project

2019-03-07 00:25

Roll-out will connect provincial departments, clinics and state offices in remote areas, using Wi-Fi

The Eastern Cape provincial government has reached a settlement in the Bhisho High Court with the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) over a multimillion-rand broadband roll-out project.

Last year City Press reported how the provincial government was at loggerheads with Sita over the project.

The province wanted to piggyback on a similar project, which had been carried out by the Western Cape government, but Sita refused to give in.

Instead it accused the Eastern Cape of having a predetermined service provider, not following an open bidding process and called the process “illegal”.

The matter ended with Sita seeking a review of the application in court pertaining to the contract with the Eastern Cape provincial government, which also included Liquid Telecommunications Operations SA as the service provider.

Earlier this month a settlement was reached between the three parties at the Bhisho High Court, which brought the dispute to an end.

The project is meant to connect the Eastern Cape’s various provincial departments and other government facilities, such as clinics and offices in remote areas, with Wi-Fi, through the provision of wide-area networks.

The court ordered the parties to jointly apply to the court for an application incorporating the terms of the agreement.

It was decided by the court that any additional work related to broadband network services for the Eastern Cape government would be provided by Sita through an open tender process.

The court said Sita should do due diligence of the project within 30 days of signing the agreement, with a view to ascertaining the scope of the work that had been completed.

“If any of the parties commit a breach of any of the terms of this agreement and fail to remedy such breach within a period of seven days after a receipt of a written notice from the other party calling upon the defaulting party so to remedy, then the aggrieved party shall be entitled, at its sole discretion and without prejudice to any of its other rights in law, approach the court for an order,” read court papers City Press has in its possession.

In an interview with City Press, Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle said he was elated by the court settlement.

“We were not relenting on the requirement of the 30% localisation, whereas in the Western Cape they had the leeway of up to 15%,” Masualle said.

The premier said he was happy that there was no corruption found related to the project but admitted that they still had to deal with matters from the Auditor-General, who had questioned whether the expenditure in the project was irregular.

Setumo Mohapi, Sita CEO, said he shared Masualle’s sentiment and was also relieved the matter had been resolved and work would soon begin.

Mohapi said the court settlement meant that of the 7 000 sites in the Eastern Cape that would be connected by broadband, the work of connecting 4 300 would be subject to an open tender.

He said Liquid Telecommunications Operations would continue with the work it had already started on the other sites.

“The Eastern Cape provincial government and Sita will sign a 10-year broadband contract.

“We have accepted we would have to deliver value for money as was the case in the Western Cape,” Mohapi said.

“We are also doing due diligence, which will inform what the value of the project will be in the next 10-years.”

Oscar Mabuyane, Eastern Cape finance, economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC, said it was a relief that the matter had now been settled, albeit in the courts, as the resolution would allow for economic development.

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April 21 2019