Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Culture Ministry paid P25m for undelivered project

Seven years later, the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture (MYSC) is unable to account for P25 million following its decision to pay a South African company money for an undelivered project.

The Telegraph has learnt that around 2008, MYSC engaged a South African company trading as Secure Data Africa (Securedata) to undertake a National Archives and Records Management System (NARMS) system upgrading. The works among other things involved the provision of design, supply and implementation of general NARMS system upgrading.

The project manager was at the time Kago Ramokate who was then Director of Botswana National Archives and Records Services BNARS).

He is currently the Permanent Secretary at MYSC. The project was to be completed in 2010. It is understood that the project overshot its term and was allegedly extended by Ramokate without authority of Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB).

An immediate response from Ramokate was unavailable.

The Telegraph sent WhatsApp messages to the Permanent Secretary and the WhatsApp ‘blue ticks’ feature showed he had read them but did not provide an immediate response.

According to sources, a total of P25 398,437.99 was paid by MYSC signed off by Ramokate. However, nothing was delivered except for a few hardware valued at P5, 364, 567.9 and the rest was for professional services and few licenses.

Reports indicate that other costs include tax charges of P2,131, 032.79 and Withholding tax of P320, 100.75 and the total paid therefore was around P28 million. But reports suggest that there was no delivery of the system.

According to on professional fees paid was not MYSC Internal Audit, which was conducted from 22nd August 2012 to 28th February 2013, withholding tax deducted as per the income tax, therefore considering that the fees amounted to P5, 569,177.80, it could be deduced that the Supplier was overpaid by P556, 917.78, sources say.

It is also understood that the project was supposed to be delivered in three stages stage I, II, and III.

Information also shows that MYSC through Botswana National Archives and Records Services then issued notice of termination in relation to its contract with Secure Data Africa citing non-delivery.

It is further understood that at the time, the role of Ramokate according to the contract was “Accountable for commercial products applied; ensure requirements are clearly and completely defined; ensure commercial element of the project is fit for purpose; monitor that the solution will meet User needs within the constraint of the business case.”

Then in 2019, Ramokate now as the Permanent Secretary caused the Minister of the same Ministry to undertake another National Archives and Records Management System (NARMS) with the same objectives and deliverables at the cost of P4 million. The project was delivered at the end of 2019.

It is also understood that the project was launched amid fanfare despite the fact that almost P30 million was spent on a similar project without any results and nothing was recovered.

possession of a letter dated 30 May 2013 from one Miles Crisp addressed to Botswana national Archives & Records Services informing the department that “on 13 may 2013 you were given notice by fax to terminate by fax and registered post in terms of clause 26(40) of the agreement between the Government of Botswana represented by BNARS and Securedata Holdings Limited (Securedata) that you were required to take certain actions to enable Securedata to complete the project. Despite being given 10 days’ notice you have failed to take any of the required action.”

According to Crisp, “The agreement has accordingly elapsed in terms of the agreement in terms of clause 26(4) (b).”

He further stated that “alternatively and insofar as maybe necessary you are hereby advised that by letter of April 2013 constituted a repudiation of the agreement and Securedata has accepted the repudiation and has cancelled the Agreement. You are also hereby advised that the Agreement has been cancelled.”

Replying, NARMS stated that “we are in receipt of the attached letter from Secure Data Holdings…”

“Despite that Secure Data in their letter dated 14/05/2013 had denied and rejected any allegations or suggestions that they are in breach of the agreement, the position they seem to hold now is that they accept our repudiation of contract and advise that the agreement is cancelled,” NARMS said.

The department also stated that “We also noted their claim that the Contract has elapsed on the basis that we failed to undertake certain actions to enable them to complete the project in spite of the notice issued to us on 13/05/2013.

“They conclude with a statement that Secure Data’s rights are reserved. We will have to familiarize ourselves with Agreement and determine the rights being referred,” the department stated.

According to the audit report, “there have been flaws in n the implementation of stages I and II of the project at the time of audit. It also found that flawed archives subsystem built which include failure to enable the capture of all record types and initially to provide web enabled access to with the department replied thus “true.”

The project also found that documentation is unavailable which include inter alia; quality assurance plan, Risk Management plan, updated master project plan, system environmental configuration documentation.

The report also stated that overall, NARMS projective has not been achieved as planned to which the ministry replied in the affirmative.

The audit also found that financial resources were not utilized in accordance with the contract agreement as evidenced by payments made even where there was poor delivery of deliverables. Responding, the ministry stated that “Not true, expenditure was as per PID.”

According to the audit report, scrutiny of the project report team timelessness indicated that the hired consultants were paid irrespective of their non-availability on site for example; the project was running without a design/business consultant though payments for these services were being made on monthly basis.

Responding, the ministry stated that “this is so true, consultants did spend some time away from the project. Other professionals who were supposed to were never there though their salaries formed part of the professional fee lump sum drawn up that was paid monthly regardless. This is an issue that has been raised in various reports during implementation.

The audit concluded that NARMS project objective has not been achieved as planned, to which the ministry answered in the affirmative.

The audit also found that stage III of the project did not materialize and the piloted sites did not go live owing to failure to deliver on the project, to which the ministry also answered in the affirmative.

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