Communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo must make public a report on an investigation into the flouting of procurement processes around the manufacture of state-sponsored set-top boxes, the Democratic Alliance says.
The call from shadow minister of telecommunications and postal services, Marian Shinn, follows an explosive exposé in this weekend’s Sunday Times that another of President Jacob Zuma’s sons, Mxolisi Saady Zuma (37), had attempted to influence the tender in Altech UEC’s favour and allegedly score a R54 million “consultancy fee”.
Shinn says making the report public will “reveal where the corruption in the process was identified in the R1 billion first phase of the STB procurement process and prompt the relevant criminal investigations”.
The Sunday Times reported that although it is thought the money was never paid, “Mxolisi negotiated with top executives for a ‘consultancy fee’ to help the company swing a contract with the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa. The agency falls under the department of communications, and Faith Muthambi, a close friend of the president, was the minister when the tender was issued”.
Shinn says Muthambi requested National Treasury in 2015 to investigate possible irregularities into the tender process for the assembly of 1.5 million STBs in the first phase of the plan to roll out five million STBs. Muthambi won control of Broadcast Digital Migration when the former department of communications was split in 2014.
“Altech UEC did not secure an order in this phase. Orders were placed with CZ Electronics, Leratadima Marketing and BUA Africa. Leratadima outsourced its production to Grand Tellumat Manufacturing and BUA Africa outsourced its production to Microtronix,” Shinn said in a statement.
But National Treasury asked PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to investigate. Muthambi received that report in March 2016. But, says Shinn, because the Universal Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) reports to the telecommunications minister, neither department has dealt with the findings in the report, each saying it was the other’s responsibility.
“For the past year I have repeatedly asked both the chairpersons of the portfolio committees on communications and telecommunications and postal services for a two-day parliamentary hearing into the status of the broadcast digital migration process, its legal and fast-changing technological challenges, and to seek views of all stakeholders in the digital migration process to discuss ways to accelerate the process,” says Shinn.
“I also wrote to Minister Dlodlo, soon after she took office, to push for a two-day hearing. None of these requests have been responded to.”
Altech and several other companies were summonsed to appear before the Competition Commission in connection with price collusion for the same tender.
Unfair business advantage
Meanwhile, DA leader Mmusi Maimane has called on Mbete to make the report public. He also referred to an affidavit by a former chief director in the public service and administration department, Brent Simmons, that the speaker has in her possession.
“Simmons claims under oath that he was present when Zuma had sent relatives to meet with several cabinet ministers, with the intention to discuss and secure business deals with government. This included threats against government officials. Simmons claims that these relationships afforded Zuma relatives a “direct, fraudulent and unfair business advantage for the benefit of the president, his family and friends at the expense of the public good,” Maimane said in a statement.
He added that he would be requesting the Public Protector investigate the claims. “There now exists prima facie evidence of undue influence and unlawful enrichment, which must be probed,” he said.
“This investigation should include a full audit of any dealings between government and members of the Zuma family – specifically Jacob Zuma’s children Duduzane, Khulubuse [his nephew] and Mqondisi.”