By Kathy Gibson – Disgruntled ICT resellers excluded from the latest transversal contract won a qualified victory during an informal protest at the State IT Agency (SITA) this morning.

A group of resellers converged on the agency’s Erasmuskloof offices to ask questions about what they perceive as the bungling of a tender for the provision of client devices over the next three years.

The tender in question is RFB0740, the transversal contract for the provision of personal computers, mobile devices and services, computer peripherals, consumables and services for government departments for a period of three years.

Literally hundreds of companies – many of them 100% black-owned SMEs and SMMEs who were accredited under the previous tender – have been excluded from a list of suppliers that now numbers just 362 accredited organisations.

Representing almost 200 resellers, the group this morning handed over a memorandum to SITA’s chief risk officer Mimi le Roux, who undertook to deliver it to CEO Luvoyo Keyise.

The memorandum outlines how many of the companies accredited under the outgoing 2005 and 2007 SITA Suppliers lists have been excluded from the RFB0740 contract, with no reasons given other than that paperwork was “fraudulent”.

“Throughout the adjudication and evaluation of the RFB0740 Contract, there has never been any communication from SITA,” the memorandum continues.

The resellers add that administrative errors and a failure of SITA’s GCommerce system could have led to the exclusion of many companies from the final list, which was made public on Tuesday (25 May 2021).

They have requested that this list be suspended immediately, manual tender submissions be allowed, and that SITA reviews the submissions of all the disqualified bidders.

Since this morning’s meeting, SITA has issued a statement saying the existing list of accredited resellers should be considered to be provisional and that an additional list will be added within four weeks.

This document was issued and signed by Nontutuzelo Mbiyo, head of department: contract management at SITA. As yet, no details are available as to what processes will be followed in determining which resellers will be added to the list.

In a nod to the complaint that communication is lacking, SITA has also set up a dedicated email address where resellers can submit queries about the contract.

The resellers contesting the tender award say many of the excluded resellers have been accredited for years and have now been cut off with no communication or explanation. “What we want is a transparent process into how the contract is awarded,” a spokesman says.

Most of the companies are black-owned SMEs and SMMEs who have built their businesses on the transversal tender and this week’s news threatened to take away many of their livelihoods, he adds.

“These companies are entrepreneurs and SMEs. Every day we are told we need to pick up the economy, but then these SMEs are excluded from participating – despite having been involved for years in previous contracts.”

Some of the SMEs in the group at SITA told IT-Online about their own experiences. They all wished for better communication from SITA and a more transparent process, and reiterated that this move could shut their businesses down.