- Regulations stipulate that all such contracts must be approved by cabinet and the Attorney General
- The Anti-Corruption Commission has already been roped in to investigate the matter.
Mbabane-In 2021 the government of Eswatini awarded a contract to the value of E 45 million for the procurement of Microsoft Services to the Cyphertech Group (Pty) Ltd.
The tender was awarded after the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology applied for a single source procurement method on behalf of the Cyphertech Group as service provider of the Microsoft services.
As part of the procurement process there are regulations that stipulate that all such contracts must be approved by cabinet and the Attorney General. In this case however, it is alleged that Cybertech and the Ministry of ICT signed the contract without cabinet ratifying it. The contract had only been awarded by the Tender Board of Eswatini but it needed to be ratified by cabinet and the Attorney General.
It is alleged that in late November 2021 Cyphertech started work on the tender and it is at this point that the Ministry of Finance picked up the irregularity and was also concerned at the amount of money that was required to service the contract. The irregularity was noticed after an invoice was submitted for work done.
Ministry of Finance
According to the information from our source whose veracity is yet to be tested, further invoices sent for work done were not paid and the Ministry of Finance went on to explain that there were errors to the contract. Chief among these was the cost of the contract which was at a rate of E 23 million per year for 25 years, totalling E 700 million.
As result of the impasse, it is alleged that it was decided that a second contract should be signed and this time a cabinet proposal was made and the contract was approved by the Attorney General’s office. However, yet again Cyphertech and the Ministry of ICT were not able to get cabinet to ratify the contract. The tender process then stalled at the cabinet offices for up to four months.
Impeccable sources close to the transactions say tensions boiled over and the matter eventually found itself in the courts whereupon it was further emphasized that the Ministry of ICT should take the matter to cabinet for ratification.
All along Cyphertech was extremely unhappy and it too sought relief from the courts stating that it does not care about administrative errors since it had already carried out work on the project and wanted to be paid.
ICT Contract Justification
In its request to the Tender Board for the approval of the contract the Ministry of Information Communications and Technology (MICT) cited that Eswatini is strategically deploying an ICT infrastructure and services to promote ICT integration within government Ministries to ensure an efficient and effective service delivery.
The Ministry of ICT identified Microsoft following an operational analysis, research, and benchmarking with other international governments for a platform that seamlessly supports at least 80% of Government’s operational processes.
It has been the view of the Ministry of ICT that currently the Microsoft solutions implementation within Eswatini government is outdated and causes operational inefficiencies within the Ministries, hence the need to upgrade to new Microsoft technology solutions (Microsoft 365). Such inefficiencies are evident with the dysfunctional government emails wherein government personnel opt for free web emails thus compromising government’s data security and use.
In motivating Microsoft 365 the ICT Ministry indicated the need to:
a) To revive the email system for government everyday use through the provision of local professional and qualified support.
b) Microsoft 365 comes with SharePoint, Power Apps and many other solutions that will provide a robust infrastructure to fundamentally support E-Government (E-Cabinet, E-Parliament, E-Agriculture, E-Commerce, E-Health, …)
c) To improve teamwork and collaboration within government Ministries through Microsoft online and Teams applications, which has many advantages over Zoom application currently used.
d) The Licensing 3000 users across government on Microsoft Office 365 will restore licensing compliance, currently there is a risk of hefty penalties (in Millions of Emalangeni) since licensing is incompliant, ensure preservation of user work documents and data thus avoid loss of critical data, ensure users get the most out of the Microsoft suite applications and I ncreased efficiency among others.
Eswatini Tender Board
In obliging the request, the Secretary of the Eswatini Tender Board, Lindiwe Mavuso stated in a memorandum that “I am directed by the Eswatini Tender Board to inform you that your request for approval of the above cited contract (Tender. No. 143 OF 2021: PROCUREMENT OF MICROSOFT SERVICES) has been approved. The approved service provider is Cyphertech Group (Pty) Ltd at contract sum of E 44, 993,670.19 (Four Four Nine Nine Three Six Seven Zero Emalangeni One Nine Only).” You are to ensure that government procedures are adhered to in the process of incurring the above-mentioned government expenditure.
The Anti-Corruption Commission has already been roped in to investigate the matter. High profile personalities known to this publication are involved in this fracas.