R2bn GautengOnline tender questioned

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

A R2 billion GautengOnline education project is shrouded in controversy, amid speculation of irregularities during the evaluation and awarding of the tender.

A source close to the process, who asked to remain anonymous, says: “The whole thing was done quick, quick, quick.

“If you look at the magnitude of the tender and the timeframe within which it was awarded, there have to be questions about the decision.”

The tender to deliver this project has been awarded to the SMMT Online consortium, but it is not known which companies are involved in this group.

GautengOnline is a provincial initiative to build a province-wide school computer network to bridge the digital divide. The project will see 25-seat computer labs, with full Internet and e-mail capabilities, being created at all Gauteng schools, to be used for curriculum delivery.

According to the source, written submissions for the GautengOnline tender were dealt with in only 14 days. Since the project migrated from the provincial Department of Education to the Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC), its budget ballooned by more than a billion rand.

Emmanuel Mdawu, spokesman for the GSSC, confirmed the allocation of the tender to SMMT Online, but was unable to immediately provide details about the consortium, tendering process, or scope of the project. He says the GSSC would have to look into the allegations that have been levelled with regard to the tender and would comment later.

This is not the first time that allegations of improprieties surfaced at the GSSC. In 2005, former GSSC CEO Mike Roussos was linked to alleged fraudulent activities involving R4.6 million, with a company contracted by the GSSC.

He was also exposed as a major shareholder in another company, which was awarded a R52 million GSSC contract.