Following a Daily Maverick report detailing a questionable deal that will see online classes broadcast to learners via mobile studios across the Eastern Cape during the lockdown, the Democratic Alliance (DA) called on the Eastern Cape premier to urgently investigate and, if necessary, cancel the deal.
According to the Daily Maverick’s Scorpio team, Sizwe Africa IT Group – a subsidiary of well-known ANC ally Iqbal Survé‘s Ayo Technology Solutions – clinched the R160 million contract from the provincial department of education by using loopholes in Treasury regulations.
“According to Scorpio, the contract was awarded without a competitive bidding process,” wrote DA MP and shadow minister for higher education, science and technology Belinda Bozzoli in a statement.
“If the premier does not act timeously to look into this contract, we call on President Ramaphosa to take action.
“It is concerning, but perhaps not unexpected, that education officials would exploit the country’s procurement legislation during a crisis in order to seemingly benefit the politically connected. All those who were involved in this contract should be subjected to an investigation and held to account for any wrongdoing,” said Bozzoli on behalf of the party.
According to the Scorpio report, the plan is to broadcast classes from mobile studios to some 72,000 learners in the province.
“The learners are due to receive SIM-cards with data to allow them to access the educational material. To help them achieve this, MTN has been roped in as a partner to the main contractor.”
Additionally, Sizwe Africa is reportedly headed up by ANC chaplain-general Reverend Vukile Mehana.
The publication further reported that the Eastern Cape’s provincial treasury had been engaging with the education department to determine whether the latter had indeed appointed Sizwe Africa in an above-board manner.
Unnamed provincial officials had posed questions on the manner in which Sizwe Africa clinched the deal.
“Instead of going out to tender, the ECDoE relied on Treasury Regulation 16A6.6, which allows one government department to ‘piggy-back’ on an earlier tender awarded by another department, provided that the initial contract had been awarded through an open and competitive bidding process.”
Due to the fact that schools are scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks, the DA was of the view that there would be a substantially reduced need for these broadcasted classes.
“In addition to this, the national department of basic education has made digital platforms available for learning to continue during this lockdown. It would, therefore, seem that this contract is unlikely to lead to a substantial improvement in learning in Eastern Cape schools and was probably little more than an attempt to extort taxpayers’ money.”
The party concluded by reiterating their call for National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi to give feedback on the status and progress of the National Prosecuting Authority’s special Covid-19 anti-corruption unit.