South Africa’s big government IT mess

Parliament has recently been critical of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), highlighting its role in the poor performance of government IT departments.

IOL previously reported that some government departments complained about poor service from SITA, with several MPs questioning whether SITA’s service are worth using at all.

Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that the future of SITA is being discussed, as it is not working optimally in its current state.

“We have taken a decision, as the President announced, that we will be re-modelling SITA to be an IT-focused company.”

SITA acting CEO Ntutule Tshenye confirmed to MyBroadband that Ndabeni-Abrahams met with SITA employees in December 2018 and outlined her expectations.

“Subsequently, SITA Executive Leadership and the department has had numerous iterations, meetings, and strategic sessions to engage on the re-purposing and the rationalisation of State-owned companies,” said Tshenye.

Cleaning up its act

Tshenye contended that SITA is crucial for digital transformation in South Africa, and said that all parties need to work together to achieve this.

“The key take-out from the current conversations around this issue is that all parties are interested in the same outcome, which is improved service delivery. The focus needs to be on how to achieve this within the current environment.”

Tshenye acknowledged that SITA has a disappointing history of corruption and other issues, but said that it is now looking to clean its act up.

“SITA over the last three years ran a very public campaign on its clean-up and its determination to root out corruption. In this regard, our commitment is steadfast: if there is evidence of corruption, it should be dealt with vociferously.”

“We have seen too many instances of a full value chain that results in the breakdown of either service delivery or ethical and sustainable business practises.”

“As SITA, we are fully willing to account for our role, and hold everybody within the SITA service delivery value chain, to the same standard that we are willing to uphold.”

Tshenye acknowledged that legacy systems still exist in certain government departments, impacting the quality of service rendered and the ability to absorb an increasing citizen demand.

“Information Communication Technology (ICT), even within the context of the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), remains a niched service delivery tool, and standardisation of ICT systems has not yet been implemented into the entire government ecosystem across all public service platforms,” said Tshenye.

“The austere financial environment and the impact of budget cuts not only affects a department’s ability to replace legacy infrastructure with the updated version that is needed for agile ICT driven operations, but also its ability to invest in staff with the requisite skills, processes and technological training required to remedy the known risks within the government environment.”

“We continue to welcome thoughtful and vigorous debate and engagement on the role of ICT within the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the digitisation of the public service, as this will enhance the content of our discussions and debate.”

Criticism of SITA

DA Shadow Minister and spokesperson for Public Service and Administration Joe McGluwa told MyBroadband that SITA has become a burden to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

“Its biggest challenges currently are in delivering an uninterrupted network – which it is incapable of doing,” said McGluwa.

“For the last 10 years, SITA has appeared before the department and their promises to find solutions have never materialized.”

“There is currently no maintenance contract with the DHA hence SITA has made a presentation to replace and upgrade, amongst others, numerous parts at enormous amounts, but this looks more like another pyramid scheme.”

McGluwa said that the only way to fix SITA is for the Department of Home Affairs to shut it down – which can only be achieved by changing legislation.

“There is too much corruption. A lot of work needed to be done,” said McGluwa.

This is an opinion piece.

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South Africa’s big government IT mess