DoC speaks about ICT Indaba finances

The Department of Communications has released a press statement today (3 August 2012), saying that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the minister or the conference organizers.

In June, the Sunday Times reported that 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.

Only a week after the event, the Sunday Times reported that telecoms companies which were approached by communications minister Dina Pule to sponsor the event were 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”.

DoC responds

The Department of Communications released a press statement today, saying that the auditor general report has cleared the Minister of any wrong doing.

Here is the response in full.

The DoC hosted a successful conference in June that placed Africa on the global ICT map. The partnerships with the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and all the various sponsors attest to that and it was hailed internationally as a success.

One of the objectives of the conference was the creation of an avenue for governments, regulators, big and small businesses, academics and students alike, to interact with ICT. As a result of the conference, African ICT ministers are well positioned to ensure that the continent achieves greater and faster development through the deployment of ICT. The conference was also a platform for delegates to do business and facilitate intra-Africa trade. Indications from delegates give us comfort that indeed this has been achieved.

A first of its kind, the event attracted 1 500 delegates, among them the world’s leading ICT experts, 17 ICT ministers from across Africa, and 89 international media organisations. They discussed ways Africa could claim its rightful place in the technology revolution and use ICT to achieve developmental goals.

Deputy Secretary General of the ITU Houlin Zhao, who attended the Indaba and was one of the key guest speakers, said the Indaba served a meaningful role in helping South Africa and the rest of the continent find practical solutions to their development goals.

“Today, the best solutions to socio-economic issues are found through vigorous debate and discussion, and most importantly the sharing of intelligence and the formation of trans-continental partnerships. The ICT Indaba provided a venue and platform for this. There is no doubt that the main beneficiary of the conference is Africa itself,” said Zhao.

According to a March 2012 IMF report, seven of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. The continent is thus geared to harnessing this economic growth potential and ensuring that the benefits are spread to all, especially the poor. In this regard ICT is generally seen as a strategic and a key enabler.

The commitment of the African ministers who attended this conference further underlines Africa’s political will to ensure that the continent moves away from being just consumers of technology but to also create local intellectual property (IP).

Ministers also agreed to roll out broadband to 80% of the population on the continent by 2020. It was agreed to roll out digital terrestrial television (DTT) to increase the ICT skills base on the continent and create jobs. These jobs will mainly come from the manufacturing of Set-Top-Boxes (decoders) that are required to convert analogue signals into digital. This can lead to the electronics manufacturing sector in Africa being reignited.

To achieve these objectives the ministers set up a secretariat whose first goal is to expand this vision to all the nations including those who were not represented at the conference. These are just some of the many serious issues tackled at the inaugural ICT Indaba which should continue to receive media coverage. The Department is proud to have been a driver in hosting this ground breaking initiative.

The concept of the ICT Indaba was proposed by Carol Bouwer Designs (CBD) as early as August 2010. The DoC saw value in the proposal and then established an internal committee to work towards hosting such an event. To assist in making this event a reality R10 million was committed to secure the venue, conference speakers, the audio systems and interpreters. The rest of the funds were expected to be raised from sponsors. To aid the securing of sponsorships, endorsement letters were also issued as is required by the industry.

Ms Carol Bouwer and Mr Phosane Mngqibisa have met previously at private and state functions such as the 2011 Budget Speech. Like with any other supplier, Mr Mngqibisa was asked to present his credentials to Ms Bouwer who found them suitable enough to partner with him for the ICT Indaba.

Due process in-line with procurement policies and processes as prescribed by National Treasury were followed in appointing Carol Bouwer Designs as the service provider for the ICT Indaba 2012. These guidelines are contained in the Practice Note SCM 11 of 2008. As expected for a project of this magnitude Carol Bouwer Designs duly submitted a preliminary close-out report and an audited report on the finances to the DoC. The Auditor General report will be available at the end of August 2012, with the release of the annual report. The report found that the Minister and all the officials of the DoC followed proper processes and procedures in engaging the service provider and in executing the Indaba.

The Minister believes it is important that the ICT Indaba be seen for what it was – an opportunity for South Africa to create a positive legacy for the continent and its people. The event attracted R16,3-million worth of positive global publicity, and has helped position South Africa as being at the forefront of driving access to ICT in Africa.

Unfortunately some recent media reports have tended to focus on alleged wrong-doings by Minister of Communication, Ms Dina Pule. When the Minister assumed her duties at the end of October 2011 the ICT Indaba was already a departmental project and in March 2012 the project assumed national importance after Cabinet approval. Hence Deputy President Kgalema Motlhanthe opened the Indaba on 05 June 2012.This meant that the Minister had to make sure that the DoC delivered a quality conference of international standing.

The Minister would like to thank Telkom SA, Vodacom, MTN, SABC, MultiChoice and all the other sponsors for their support of the Indaba through sponsorships. “We value the relationships we have with the private sector. Without these companies’ input and support, the ICT Indaba would not have been possible,” she said. The Minister would also like to acknowledge the Office of the Auditor General for their work in assisting the DoC in adhering to good corporate governance.

The DoC has always believed that the processes we followed were open and transparent.

With the endorsement and support of the ITU, sponsors and government the DoC is committed to making the ICT Indaba an annual event.

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DoC speaks about ICT Indaba finances