SA govt broadband tender 'cancelled'

Broadband internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Broadband internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Johannesburg - Broadband for all in South Africa has hit a snag as bidding for government’s first phase of its 'Connect' project has been cancelled, according to a tender bulletin update.

The tender, which was headed up by the telecommunications and postal services ministry, was originally divided in two phases.

Phase one was allocated R1.5bn and was expected to connect 6 235 government facilities in eight district municipalities. Phase two was subsequently planned to connect 35 211 facilities in another 44 disctrict municipalities by 2020.

The project was part of government’s 'SA Connect' plan, which seeks connecting broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020 and 100% by 2030.

Last week the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) said that bidders for the project would include Broadband Infraco, EOH, MTN, Vodacom, Tradepage and Galela Telecommunications. Telkom declined to bid, despite reports that it was in the running.

READ: Govt tight-lipped on broadband tender deal

But a government gazette published on November 18 indicates that the broadbanded project is among a series of tenders that has been cancelled by Sita.

Phase 1 of the SA Connect Programme tender is listed under cancelled tenders in a section published as ‘Gauteng: State Information Technology Agency: Supply Chain Management’.

Sita nor officials at the department of telecommunications and postal services were immediately available for comment.

However, opposition party the DA has called on telecoms and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele to answer.

“I have written to the minister of telecommunications and postal services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, requesting that he urgently explain why the tender was cancelled and what steps are being taken to revise the procurement phase and implementation of SA Connect,” said the DA’s Marian Shinn.

Confusion over tender

This is not the first time that controversy and confusion have struck the tender.

Previous reports had indicated that Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed Telkom could be near to sealing the SA Connect deal without undergoing a proper tender process. Government owns 39% of Telkom.

In the 2015 State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma announced that government had decided to “designate Telkom as the lead agency to assist with broadband roll out”.

Yet, Telkom was not part of Sita’s bidders list for the tender, sparking further confusion.

Adding the confusion is that just last month, Treasury’s medium-term budget policy statement indicated that the tender for the broadband project still had to be issued.

“The department has requested the State Information Technology Agency to procure the service provider,” said a note relating to the department of telecommunications and postal services.

“In June 2016, the agency issued a bid document inviting prospective service providers to bid for broadband connectivity of the identified sites, and the bids are currently being evaluated.

“It is anticipated that the procurement process will be completed by the end of October 2016, after which the broadband connection of government buildings and schools will begin,” read the note.

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