Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is being urged to release the probe into the controversial multibillion-rand “Who am I” deal. Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Independent Democrats (ID) want the report to be made public, as concerns mount that billions of rand in taxpayers’ money may have been mis-spent.
The controversial project, which aims to replace the department’s outdated systems with electronic processing, was awarded to GijimaAst in 2008. The project aims to modernise Home Affairs and forms the foundation for future projects such as the smart ID cards – yet another controversial project that was recently canned.
“Who am I” will eliminate manual and paper-based systems used to issue visas, passports and identity documents, and implement a border control management system at ports of entry into SA.
On April 13, Home Affairs sent a surprising letter to GijimaAst cancelling the deal. The listed company is preparing to take the matter to court to have the contract upheld.
In a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, last Monday, the department stated that “the supplier for the ‘Who am I Online’ project had failed to perform and deliver in accordance with the contract”. Last weekend, Home Affairs barred GijimaAst staff from working on “Who am I” at its Pretoria office. The State Attorney stepped in and instructed the department to allow work to continue.
In the middle of all the legal wrangling, a 2008 Auditor General’s report into the awarding of the deal is seemingly being kept secret by the department. Opposition parties say they have been requesting this report, which could shed light on why the deal was canned, without any success.
Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa was not available to comment this morning, but has previously refused to say anything because of the pending legal case. But opposition parties say this is nonsense; the report should be released, because it deals with taxpayers’ money.
The initial deal was signed in 2008 for R1.9 billion, and the contract has since escalated to R2.2 billion, with another R2.3 billion for hardware infrastructure that should have been made available to GijimaAst, but was not, according to the Sunday Times. Juanita Terblanche, the DA’s shadow minister for Home Affairs, says she is shocked that the report has not been tabled either at portfolio committee level, or in Parliament. “It should be tabled as a matter of urgency.”Terblanche adds that the department is keeping “so many things hidden”, and previous comments by Mamoepa – that the matter will not be debated in the media – are “political spin”, because the contract involves taxpayers’ money.
Joe Mcgluwa, ID spokesman on Home Affairs, wants minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma “to take us into her confidence over why the department has terminated the ‘Who am I Online’ contract with GijimaAst”. He says he has – for the past 14 month – repeatedly asked for a copy of the forensic report that was commissioned by the previous minister. “We are hoping that it will not be during a court battle between GijimaAst and the department when we finally get answers to our questions,” Mcgluwa says. Mcgluwa says he has proof that the report has been submitted to the department in February last year, but Dlamini-Zuma (who was appointed in April) has repeatedly denied having seen the report.
Thoko Mnyango, GijimaAst’s executive for marketing, communications and transformation, says the company has also not seen the report, and has no idea why Home Affairs cancelled the contract. “If there are findings, you would assume that they would communicate those with us,” she says.