The first tender for South Africa Connect – the government’s ambitious broadband roll-out plan to provide internet access to all South Africans by 2020 – has been cancelled.
The cancellation of the tender, which closed on 8 August, appeared in the Govenrment Gazette on 18 November 2016.
The tender was for the “appointment of service provider for the provisioning of broadband connectivity to certain government facilities located in eight district municipalities as per phase 1 implementation of the SA Connect Programme”.
Marian Shinn, shadow minister of telecommunications and postal services, says she has written to the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, requesting that he urgently explain why the tender was cancelled and what steps are being taken to revise the procurement phase and implementation of SA Connect.
“The cancellation in the Government Tender Bulletin of Friday, November 18, was published under Gauteng: State Information Technology Agency: Supply Chain Management with the incorrect tender number of RFB 1439/2015. The tender was issued with the number RFB 1439/2016 in late June 2016. The winning bidder was due to be announced by the end of September.
“In oral questions time in the National Assembly on 9 November, the deputy minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Dr Hlengiwe Mkhize, twice avoided my question of whether Telkom had submitted a bid in response to the tender which Information Communication Technology (ICT) analysts says was tailor-made for Telkom.”
Shinn points out that last week the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) released the names of the bidders as Broadband Infraco, EOH, MTN, Vodacom, Tradepage and Galela Telecommunications. Telkom had declined to bid.
The first phase, for which National Treasury has allocated R1,5 billion in the current Medium Term Economic Framework, was to be a pilot phase to connect 6 235 government facilities in eight district municipalities.
Phase 2, for which there is no available funding, was to roll-out broadband connectivity to 35 211 facilities in the remaining 44 district municipalities by 2020 to meet the SA Connect target of 90% population coverage.
In the 2015 State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma announced that government had decided to “designate Telkom as the lead agency to assist with broadband roll out”.
“This prompted ICT industry criticism that procurement had to follow a legal, open tender process and that government could not single out one JSE-listed company,” Shinn points out. “The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services then spent more than a year drawing up specifications for a tender process.
“The rapid provision of broadband internet structure is critical to give all those living in South Africa access to online government services, educational and economic opportunities. Government must now be innovative in requesting broadband solutions from a wider spread of small and large network service providers to deliver affordable and sustainable Internet access to all.”