South Africa could once again miss the deadline for digital migration due to “supply chain management irregularities” and “collusion issues” parliament’s portfolio committee heard on Tuesday.
The initial deadline, as determined by the International Telecommunication Union, was June 17, 2015.
Due to legal wrangling and power struggles between the newly established departments of communications and telecommunications and the Postal Service, South Africa missed that deadline.
Former Communications minister Faith Muthambi, who was the political head of the political debacle until last month when President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his cabinet, had set a new deadline of June 2018.
However, the Department of Communications told Parliament that the process was facing a funding challenge. Deputy minister of Communications, Thandi Mahambehlala, said the funding was not the only challenge.
“Usassa (Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa) cancelled the contracts of the manufacturers,” she said, and asked Basani Baloyi, department of communications’ acting director-general, to explain further.
Baloyi explained that Usassa appointed three manufacturers for the set-top boxes required for digital migration and 27 service providers for its installation. Supply chain management irregularities and “issues of collusion” were brought to the department’s attention. An investigation by treasury followed.
“The problem is, Usassa just unilaterally cancelled the contracts,” said Baloyi. “We’re not only concerned about the money, we might even miss the deadline.”
She also said some of the service providers, who have stock, might sue.
Committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana said a joint meeting with the portfolio committee on telecommunications and the postal service should by convened urgently.
Digital migration is the process of switching over from an analogue television signal to a digital terrestrial television signal, allowing for the radio frequency spectrum to be freed up and allowing for faster mobile data services.