R2.8m new UP website under scrutiny

Internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Pretoria - Staff at the University of Pretoria (UP) have complained that the new R2.8m website, costing an additional R200 000 hosting fee per month, has not yet gone live since March this year.

A staff member said: “It looks nice from the front - but the nightmare is on the back-end side when you want to make changes to the content etc. This is the place where it is unstable and is vulnerable because the platform is weak. It is also very slow as they are using inferior hosting and the website functionality is much harder to use than the existing one”.

The “go-live” date for the new website was previously postponed owing to technical difficulties and alleged “unresolved” issues.

According to UP, an open tender process was followed according to the University's procurement policy and awarded to iGroup.

iGroup Create is a locally and internationally based digital solutions company, with 17 years of industry experience, according to their own website.

Content challenges

However, a UP staff member who did not want to be named, said a representative of iGroup sold the university the “wrong concept”.

The UP whistle-blower alleged that a staff member of iGroup said: “The content migration was never going to work as the systems were not compatible from the beginning, hence the mess now."

“Two contracts were signed with iGroup in 2013, as well as the project plan and payment schedule. The University's legal services were involved in drawing up the contracts (Master Customer Relationship agreement and the Hosting Services Terms and Conditions). According to the payment schedule the University had to pay a deposit in 2013 for the development of the total base system, customisations and extensions," said Dr Karen Lazenby, Director of the University of Pretoria.

"The outstanding amount will only be paid when the project is completed (including phase two that will be executed next year). When the new website of the University goes live (around the third week in November 2014) it will be the completion of phase one.

"The new website is hosted locally and internationally and the costs are attributed to three live environments for the testing, development and production servers and integration with University systems,” Lazenby added.

Dr Lazenby added that the University website contains “more than 450 mini websites, which created challenges for the content migration owing to the scope and complexity of the project”.

“In light of the above the costs are in line with the size and scope of such a project… In conclusion a project of this size and scope is normally not without problems and we've been working with iGroup to resolve outstanding functional and technical requirements before go-live,” she said.

iGroup has denied allegations that the “wrong website concept” was sold to UP and clarified allegations that some of their staff working on the UP website recently resigned, owing to an inability to meet iGroup's promises on the project.

Denial

Managing director of iGroup Create, Andrew Flinders said: "The University of Pretoria has given you a response on the progress of the project and you are referred to the timeframes set out in the response.

"We categorically deny that a 'wrong website concept' was sold to UP by Mr Marc Seymour. The migration issues encountered, are not uncommon to a project of this magnitude.  The problems encountered, are not as a result of 'overall incompetent migration process on the side of iGroup' as alleged.

"As the project progressed, certain changes were identified by both parties which, if implemented, would improve the functionality of the website. We do not share the views that testing one Faculty would have been sufficient. It was expected of us to test all sites”.

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