Members of Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee have demanded that action be taken against officials of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) responsible for the disappearance of documents related to a multi-million rand biometric identification system tender.
The MPs were told by SITA that the master file of the tender cannot be found and that it has appointed forensic auditors to reconstruct it.
SITA indicated that the official who was the last to access the file has since died while others have now left the organisation.
The automated biometric identification system (ABIS) was designed to replace the Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS) which is soon coming to the end of its life.
The State Information Technology Agency contracted the company EOH on behalf of the department to design and deliver the system.
The main advantage of ABIS compared to the manually operated HANIS is that it is fully automated and will help speed up the biometric identification processes.
In the video below, Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs Mkhuseli Apleni speaks about the advantages of the ABIS system:
But the Auditor General has flagged the tender process as irregular. Last year the portfolio committee recommended an urgent investigation into the procurement process. Now members are not happy that so far no one has been held accountable for this.
“You must charge them. They must be jailed. They must be sentenced because this money belongs to the government, not individuals. They must be jailed and be sentenced in a short space Ntate Keyise and the minister, please, we want a report as the committee as to what is it that he has done. You must press charges against those people with immediate effect even after this meeting Ntate Keyise. Do something about those people, they must be arrested even if they are not with SITA you can still hold them accountable outside. The law does allow us,” says ANC MP Desmond Moela.
SITA Executive Caretaker Luvuyo Keyise told the committee that a forensic audit company SAB&T has been appointed to probe the matter and reconstruct the files. He says they have been informed that the main master file of the tender document no longer exists. A CD of this document is also empty.
“And we now sit with the situation where we have to say two and a half years down the line, why are we only now finding that the CD that had a copy of this document is now empty. There is no information on it. And even the paper to document is empty. So in the last presentation, I’m informed that SITA made to the committee last year three, the only information SITA could give the committee was that the person who was another response movement the document Mr. Swanepoel died with the documents. “
Members were unanimous in their support of Moela’s recommendation. Congress of the People President Mosiuoa Lekota asked how come the blame is now on one person who has died. He wanted to know how an individual was carrying such an important file.
“ This matter of his death was it reported to the law enforcement people and do we know what the courts found, why and how he died? Was he carrying the file with him when he died? Why is a file linked to him specifically? Because if it was the file of the committee one would expect that when we knock off they are locked up in the safes of the committee and all of that has to go. Why are we just told no he died. Did the file die with him?”
A plea for patience
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi urged members to exercise a little patience. He said unduly hurrying the auditors to complete their work so that prosecutions can follow. It could end up jeopardising their case.
“We can only plead with the forensic auditors. We can only ask them if they were going to interview individuals if they wanted to take five days interviewing them maybe they must need two days or one day. We can only plead with them. We are in their hands. We completely depend on them because if you go and force them to give us what they have when they lose, when this case is lost they will blame us and say no we told you we are not yet finished with our investigation, you hurried us. So I don’t want us to let the culprits off the hook in this matter.”