The Department of Communications (DoC) spent R102-million on its recent ICT Indaba held at the Cape Town Convention Centre from 4 to 7 June 2012. According to the DoC the aim of the Indaba was to look at international models on how to boost the development of the ICT sector in Africa.
Only a week after the event drew to a close the Sunday Times reported that telecoms companies were approached by communications minister Dina Pule to sponsor the event. The sponsors were apparently angry about how the finances of the event were handled.
“The money trail followed by the Sunday Times shows that Telkom paid R5.7-million and Vodacom R5-million into a First National Bank account in the name of Carol Bouwer Designs, while MTN paid R15-million into the bank account of a company called ABR Consulting,” the Sunday Times reported.
According to the Sunday Times, Phosane Mngqibisa, who is reportedly romantically linked to Pule, withdrew millions from these sponsorships within days after the money was paid.
The newspaper reported that Carol Bouwer Designs, a company owned by Carol Bouwer, who is close to President Jacob Zuma, was contracted to put the Indaba together. According to the report Bouwer “would not reveal how much money Mngqibisa withdrew from her account or confirm whether he did pay the suppliers”.
Pule’s spokesman, Siya Qoza said that a financial report about the event is expected in July.
What you can do with R102-million
Many people have criticized the DoC for hosting endless useless talks shops. With the ICT Indaba following the department’s national ICT policy colloquium in April one can’t help but feel the criticism may be justified.
To put the R102 million price tag in perspective, this is what the DoC could have done with the money (instead of spending it on a 4 day event):
- Cover the whole Johannesburg metropolitan area with a Wi-Fi network which can be used to provide all citizens and businesses in the area with affordable 10Mbps broadband access. This network can be built using 6,000 access point units and 1,200 backhaul units for a robust, fast wireless broadband network.
- Provide 1,000 (yes, one thousand) schools with the necessary computer equipment for a 20 PC computer laboratory. You will even have money left over to provide all these schools with a 10Mbps uncapped ADSL service for a year to support the new computer lab.
- Provide well over 5,000 metropolitan and rural schools with a 10Mbps ADSL or satellite Internet connection for a year
The DoC, however, felt that the money would be better spent on another event which culminated in vague agreements like planning to deliver broadband to 80% of African citizens by 2020.