News | South Africa | Government
A company embroiled in an multi-million Rand telecommunications tender scandal in Mpumalanga has blamed “sabotage” for the current crisis that has left clinics, hospitals, and other buildings without telecommunications services, despite the company allegedly already collecting R13-million to deliver these services.
ABT Telecoms, a little-known Johannesburg-based company, has come under the spotlight following revelations that Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane’s office was investigating its allegedly irregular R265.3m tender.
City Press has revealed that when the previous telecoms provider’s contract had expired in October, it continued to render services through November before pulling the plug on 2 December. After the previous contractor switched off their services, at least 76 government sites were disconnected, leaving 15 000 civil servants without telephones.
Thula Nkumane, ABT Telecoms managing director, said they have been caught up in a handover tussle between government and the previous service provider, with the ripple effects impacting civil servants and ultimately citizens.
“The previous service provider has not handed over assets that belong to government- namely, government telephone numbers, back to the state upon the end of their contract. This has led to the provincial government not being able to make or receive calls on the number range 013 766 0000 to 013 766 999 and 9999 for ABT Telecoms to facilitate a seamless continuation of telecommunication services to Government offices and facilities,” Nkumane explained.
According to Nkumane, ABT has built infrastructure and upgraded critical equipment, while also providing a block of numbers to enable government to make calls and continue service delivery. He said they have also built a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network connecting government buildings in Mpumalanga, which he said has enabled more than 7 000 civil servants to make voice calls.
But he denied that ABT Telecoms had been paid R13-million and that the figure was based on discussion documents between the government and ABT.
“…the documents were a discussion around governance, which is a process of aligning with a client on document structures, invoices structures and reporting templates,” Nkumane said.
Provincial department of public works spokesperson, Mxolisi Dlamini, said the matter was subject to legal proceedings, in a bid to resolve the impasse and that his department may not be able to extensively express itself on the issues.
He, however, said this matter does not directly affect the alleged service delivery points such as clinics and hospitals since only certain government telephone numbers have been affected.
“…police facilities are not under the custodianship of the Provincial Government Administration therefore they are not affected. Neither is it correct that the Department has paid ABT Telecoms an amount of R13 million,” Dlamini said.
He said only a total of 54 sites comprising of administration offices of various departments have been affected.
Dlamini said alternative telecommunication services have been arranged to ensure that service delivery is not adversely compromised pending the conclusion of this matter by the courts.
“The Department would like to assure all affected parties that it is working tirelessly to address the situation and would like to convey sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused,” he added.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.