The SASSA debacle

By Johan Sipho Coetzee

In my 8 years working at Business Connexion (BCX) I was accountable for putting together various large & complex Information and Communication Technology (ICT) implementation and outsourcing deals and managed them through successful transitioning of services, people, systems and facilities. (The clients involved in these outsource deals included Sasol, Arivia, SARS, BHP Billiton, Edcon, AngloGold Ashanti, Sappi, Metcash, Fluor, Eskom and Afgri to mention the main ones.)

Most of these deals entailed the transitioning of services, people, systems and facilities from another supplier to Business Connexion. In essence exactly what the minister of Social Development had to do transitioning the outsourced SASSA pay-out services from CPS to either the department of Social Development themselves or to another outsource supplier. In my approximately 4 years working for Gijima after my career at BCX I managed the
ICT services outsourced by Absa to Gijima. (I lead a team of approx. 550 technical people delivering ICT Infrastructure Support services in close to 1400 locations across South Africa – approximately a R400m / annum contract.) Needless to say, I have a very good understanding of what outsourcing and the transition of outsourced services from one supplier to another entail. In short, the steps are typically:
1. This step is on the client side: Scope the services to be delivered, draft a contract and service level agreements to cover the delivery of the services, compile a tender document and put it out on tender. (This is typically a 12-month process if it is a large and complex deal.)
2. This step is between the client and the bidders: Do a due diligence to determine the exact scope of the services and the complexity involved (primarily the supplier side), ensure the supplier has the necessary skills, people, facilities, systems and experience to deliver the services according to the scope and required service levels. (primarily the client side) The suppliers at this stage cost the services and write a detailed proposal to answer the tender. This is typically a 6 to 8-month process involving a team of up to 40 people on some of the deals I was involved in. The cost to the suppliers (carried as a sales
cost) can be as high as an estimated R5m to R10m like in the case of the SARS outsource deal I was involved in.
3. This step is on the client side: Awarding the tender to a supplier based on the proposals. This was typically a 2 to 3-month process. (Corporate world, limited political delays.)
4. This step is primarily on the supplier side but with direct involvement from the client: After the awarding of the tender to a supplier, a very focused transition project kicked off. This was the step where contracts were negotiated, people transferred or employed, rental agreements concluded to establish facilities / offices, the facilities were equipped (furniture, security systems, networks, computer equipment etc.) and systems were adjusted / written to be able to deliver these services. In most cases a 6 to 8-month process (If the unions get involved it can be longer.) I can clearly recall a team of 60 people (including a skilled program manager, 3 project managers and several lawyers) and a transition project cost of R30m in the Anglogold Ashanti deal.
5. This step is on the supplier side (responsibility) but management accountability for the outsourced services stays with the client: Service delivery according to contract, invoicing and service level agreement reporting. The typical ICT outsource contract was 3-5 years in duration.
6. At the end of the contract if the supplier does not win the renewal of the contract (In the CPS case the contract needed to terminate because they won the initial contract illegally.) the incumbent supplier had to assist the new supplier in the transitioning of people, services etc. from the incumbent to the new supplier. This assistance was typically clearly spelled out in the outsource contract and normally specified a section 197 transfer of people to either the client or the new supplier.

All of these steps generate a very auditable trail of documents (proposals, contracts, letters, project plans, steering committee minutes, reports, invoices etc.) so it should be very easy for the Public Protector (Zuma Protector?) or a court (should the DA or AfriForum – Gerrie Nel – initiate a case) to determine:
* Was the honourable (dishonourable?) minister Bathabile Dlamini incompetent – didn’t follow the above steps with the necessary competent people involved;
* Was the honourable (dishonourable?) minister Bathabile Dlamini wilfully in contempt of court – didn’t follow the above steps at all;
* Was the honourable (dishonourable?) minister Bathabile Dlamini bribed by CPS – an audit of her personal finances should be able to clear her.

I hope the court at the end of the day will not disadvantage the 17M people receiving SASSA grants (allow enough time for the transitioning of services from CPS) or the taxpayer. (rather fine the minister in her personal capacity for incompetence, contempt of court or dishonesty – whichever prove to be the case)

Regardless of the outcome, it should be determined what was done by the honourable (dishonourable?) minister Bathabile Dlamini and her department before the court could make a meaningful call on the way forward.

Another Life Esidimeni case where the number of people dying from lack of SASSA funds is just 17M instead of the 100+ who died from hunger and lack of care due to incompetence?

  • Johan Sipho Coetzee is an independent ICT & Management Consultant in the Vaal Triangle.

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