STB probe now urgent – Marian Shinn

DA MP says Busisiwe Mkhwebane needs to act given latest revelations

Public Protector can no longer ignore request for Set-Top Box probe

The Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, can no longer ignore the DA’s request for a probe into the procurement process of the government-sponsored set-top-boxes (STB) – a key component of the broadcast digital migration (BDM) process.

The DA has written to the Public Protector once again to request that she proceeds with the investigation without further delay as it seems the BDM process is marred by irregularity and corruption, which needs to be urgently investigated.

The DA’s initial request to the Public Protector, acknowledged on 8 August 2017, was for her office to:

Probe the procurement process for the government- subsidised STBs;

Investigate alleged tender irregularities and possible unlawful decision-making;

Determine whether the entire BDM process needs to be cancelled and re-run; and

Recommend disciplinary action or actions by SAPS or other investigatory bodies to further probe the process and pursue possible criminal acts.

Yet, three months later and there seems to be little to no progress.

This past week, the GuptaLeaks revealed how Tony Gupta acted as a channel between MultiChoice – a key protagonist in the STB encryption battle – and former Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, to change the BDM policy in MultiChoice’s favour, which she did.

Today it has come to light that the Hawks raided 13 of the 26 firms involved in the STB tender, following a 10-month investigation by the Competition Commission into collusion in the process.

These revelations, in conjunction with the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) investigation into the process clearly indicate serious procurement irregularities or criminal acts had been committed and must been acted upon.

The PWC report that was forwarded to the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, who has administrative authority of the BDM programme while the Minister of Communications has executive authority over it, has not been acted upon because “it is a draft”.

Clearly, there’s something in the report that Minister Muthambi and Telecommunications Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, do not want the public to see.

Repeated requests to the Chairpersons of the Communications and Telecommunications and Postal Services portfolio committees to hold two-day hearings into the entire BDM process have also failed to materialise, despite being included in the committee programmes of each term this year.

In August 2017 USAASA applied to the North Gauteng High Court for a declarator order to declare the tender process unlawful and to set aside the purchase orders as there were irregularities – and possibly criminal acts – in the awarding of the tenders. The matter is still to be heard.

The DA remains resolute, and we will not be deterred by the obvious tactics to sweep the irregularities and corruption in the BDM process under the rug.

Statement issued by Marian Shinn MP, DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, 26 November 2017