Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s office has launched an investigation into the alleged irregular appointment of a telecommunications company on a five-year contract worth R265.3 million.
City Press can confirm that the integrity management unit within Mtsweni-Tsipane’s office wrote to acting public works head of department Morale Morolo on Tuesday requesting documents including a copy of the advertised tender, all quotations submitted to the department, appointment letters from the bid committee members, minutes from the bid committee meetings, as well as memos and payments made to the supplier.
Public works appointed ABT Telecoms (Pty) Ltd to render telecommunications on 76 sites of the Mpumalanga government, including police stations, hospitals and clinics. However, the province’s telecommunications have been down since the previous contractor, Kwa Mahlaba Connect, handed over operations to ABT on October 30.
Morolo has taken Kwa Mahlaba Connect to the Mbombela High Court to obtain an order that forces the company to port government numbers to ABT Telecoms. Kwa Mahlaba had declined to port the numbers to ABT Telecoms, arguing that the latter needs to first comply with Independent Communications Authority of SA requirements to legally request the porting of numbers.
According to court documents City Press has seen, ABT Telecoms allegedly has no infrastructure, requisite licences and capacity to provide the telecommunications service.
Judge Brian Mashile is expected to pass judgment on the matter this week.
The integrity management unit claims in its letter to Morolo that it received a tip-off from an anonymous whistle-blower. The letter was signed by unit head Welcome Nkuna.
“The allegations,” reads the letter, “are [that] the department irregularly appointed a company called ABT Telecoms to provide services for which it has no capacity to render. It is further alleged that ABT Telecoms is not licensed to render the services it claims to be providing and was disqualified by its partner, MTN, from being a customer due to affordability.”
“It is further stated that ABT Telecoms solicits help from licensed companies to deliver services to the department since it is unlicensed.”
Public works spokesperson Mxolisi Dlamini could not be drawn into commenting about the matter.
“Unfortunately, the matter referred to is sub judice, therefore the department is unable to comment on the questions brought forward,” Dlamini said.
According to Kwa Mahlaba Connect’s affidavit to the high court, ABT Telecoms allegedly invoiced the department R8.9 million for November and in advance for December even though it has allegedly not rendered any services.