R500 million wasted in dodgy Telkom data storage contract

No criminal charges were laid against the Gauteng health department officials involved in awarding a wasteful data storage contract to Telkom, which cost half a billion rand.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi revealed this in response to questions from the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom regarding the state of investigations into several alleged fraudulent, irregular, and corrupt activities that occurred in the department over the last few years.

The province’s former health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa first revealed in 2018 that the department had uncovered an irregular contract for a R500-million Vblock data storage facility.

Vblock systems are a type of converged infrastructure created by Virtual Computing Environment (now EMC Converged Platform Division).

They are made up of storage, provisioning and data protection services from EMC, with switches and servers made by Cisco, and run on VMWare Virtualisation.

The IT infrastructure contract was awarded in 2014 when the department was led by disgraced former MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who has been blasted for her role in the Life Esidimeni scandal that resulted in the deaths of 143 psychiatric patients.

When the contract was awarded, the health department already had a storage facility for e-governance.

In addition, Ramakgopa said the new facility was big enough to accommodate the entire Gauteng government, in addition to one or two other provinces.

In her response to the questions from Bloom, Mokgethi revealed that six officials involved in the matter had resigned, one was issued with a final written warning, and another was facing a disciplinary process.

Bloom said he was astounded that no criminal charges were brought against those implicated in the Vblock case and that no money was recovered from the implicated officials.

The investigations into the Vblock matter and three other incidents are four of the 12 investigations the department has concluded.  These have cost the department R17.6 million to date.

Bloom said he suspects the department is being ripped off by expensive legal firms who conduct these investigations.

“The most expensive investigation is costing R3.4 million, which is looking at human resource and supply chain irregularities at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto,” said Bloom.

“In many cases, the investigation costs more than what is alleged to have been stolen,” Bloom stated.

“The department needs to have effective measures to prevent theft and fraud in the first place. But if it occurs, the investigations should be cost-effective and speedy, with stolen money recovered and the culprits charged in court.”

MyBroadband contacted Telkom for comment on the Vblock contract, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

Now read: You don’t need to enforce social distancing strictly – Gauteng Education Department

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R500 million wasted in dodgy Telkom data storage contract