The truth about South Africa’s undelivered R432-million biometrics database

Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi is disputing claims that his department blew R432 million on an undelivered biometrics database and population register, adding that reports saying as much are misleading.

The minister’s major dispute is that his department has not yet paid the full R150 million to former EOH sub-contractor Idemia for the second phase of the project — which is yet to be completed.

Motsoaledi confirmed his department had paid R282 million for the hardware and software that EOH had delivered.

“We are aware that there is deliberate misinformation on this issue,” Motsoaledi said in response to a parliamentary question from the ANC. “Looks like there was a competition to misinform.”

The minister also contends that context is missing from the original reporting.

In his response, he said it would be best to outline the history of the matter to provide factual information.

“In 2016, the Department of Home Affairs needed to modernise by upgrading its biometric system,” Motsoaledi said.

“The upgrading was to a new advanced system called ABIS (Automated Biometric Information System), which has five Biometrics viz fingerprint, photo, Iris recognition technique, facial recognition and palm print.”

He said that because the upgrades were IT-related, Home Affairs was not authorised to acquire such systems through its supply chain.

Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Minister of Home Affairs

“Hence Home Affairs approached SITA, which followed its own procurement systems and awarded the contract to a company called EOH,” Motsoaledi added.

“This contract was worth R405 million. While the Auditor-General was auditing SITA, he flagged this contract as having been awarded irregularly.”

Home Affairs was tasked with instituting a forensic audit to get to the bottom of the matter, for which it contracted Nexia SAB&T.

“While the audit was on, EOH pulled out of all Government contracts, including this one,” Motsoaledi said.

“At the time of pulling out, EOH has already purchased hardware worth R113 million, software worth R110 million, and delivered services worth R56 million.”

“As you can see, this money is a total of R280 million, and this is the amount Home Affairs paid,” he added.

“Obviously, no court of law will allow Home Affairs to refuse to pay for what has already been bought and delivered.”

According to the minister, Home Affairs is currently implementing the recommendations of the forensic audit, adding that it had opened a criminal case against specific individuals and handed over names to the Hawks.

Motsoaledi also provided a case number — CAS 145/3/2021.

EOH headline

MyBroadband previously spoke to EOH about the matter, and it confirmed that it received a payment of R282 million.

“In terms of this contract, the total contract value was c.R410 million,” EOH said.

“EOH has only received c.R282 million incl. VAT in payment for services rendered.”

“To date, EOH has successfully delivered 51 of the 60 contracted milestones for phase 1 of the Project, which have been signed off and accepted by the DHA,” it added.

EOH said it had procured and built two data centres as specified in the contract. It also built and tested all contracted interfaces.

“The project was unfortunately delayed for a number of reasons and in order to resolve the disputed issues, this now forms part of an ongoing arbitration process and as such, no further information can be disclosed at this point,” EOH added.

EOH ceded phase 2 of the project — at an amount of R150 million — to Idemia.

In his response to parliamentary questions, Motsoaledi said his department had only paid R12 million of the R150 million.

“Home Affairs can only pay in full when a project has been completed,” he added.

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The truth about South Africa’s undelivered R432-million biometrics database