On the Cover

SITA`s daunting list of tasks is made all the more frightening, given the massive change under way at the state-owned entity The State Information Technology Agency`s (Sita`s) web site lists an intimidating collection of strategic undertakings.

They include the IFMS (Integrated Finance Management System) project - an ERP system planned for the entire government; the Batho Pele Gateway, (a citizen-focused government service portal); the SMS (Seat Management System) tender, mainframe consolidation, disaster recovery and so on.

The scary part is that the really interesting business of this agency, whose mandate it is to provide centralised IT procurement for its only customer, government, is not even on there.

Various government departments have, however, been releasing piecemeal information concerning their engaging of Sita, in budget speeches or elsewhere; often making throwaway mention of projects of staggering proportions.

What are these projects, and how are they panning out? And is Sita up to the task?

Last things first

The issue of Sita`s capacity has been widely dealt with, and although it goes to the heart of its performance, the new management`s progress is satisfactory.

In summary, though, some of the major issues that have confronted it were past confusion around the agency`s procurement facilitation-versus-supply mandate. There is now clarity that it should act only as the central hub of government`s IT procurement. And it is being accepted as such. "Most departments procure IT products and services via the agency in line with the Act of 2002 (as amended). Some non-mandatory services are procured directly from suppliers by government departments," says Fantas Mobu, executive, Procurement Services.

Other matters of capacity concern Sita`s financial viability. In this regard, it has embarked on massive restructuring at all levels, and there is now certainty that it needs to adopt more of a financial sustainability focus than profit-drivenness.

Many questions about its leadership, alleged corruption in its ranks, skills and empowerment have been answered by the appointment of some two years ago, and steady changes in rank and file ever since.

After many changes of the guard, Msimang is a breath of fresh air, proving effective at bringing about change at grassroots levels and demonstrably rooting out the scourge of corruption where he finds it.

And the question of the desirability of the organisation`s involvement at lower levels of government has also had results. After extensive consultation with the Gitoc (Government IT Officers` Council) Sita accepts that it should not assume a prescriptive role. This strategy both benefits its trust relationships with customers and expedites tender turnaround times.

And the efficiencies it has gained through the use of pre-vetted suppliers and technology is now available to government entities other than national government - even non-government entities, such as schools, without over-burdening Sita`s staff, as previously feared.

Status check

But as mentioned at the start of this article, many new challenges await. These are big, ambitious projects, next to which even the abovementioned activities seem relatively easy. Given past failures, can Sita be expected to maintain the new pace it has set for itself?

The organisation`s executive team point to many lessons learnt in past and current endeavours. And in the final analysis, they also have the right to be judged on their results and progress.

, executive: Client Services, says the Government Common Core Network (GCCN) operated by Sita acts as the basis on which it provides data services (including Internet services) to government. The GCCN is built on `s infrastructure, and switching architecture is provided by Nortel and .

"About 90% of government departments using the GCCN also use Sita as an ISP," he says. "Growth in Internet usage has resulted in government stating new requirements in guaranteed bandwidth, internationally and locally, and local redundancy."

Progress in this regard is that the tender has been finalised for the first-tier ISP, but Mobu says the terms still have to be accepted by the recipient. "It should start operating in September," adds Bogoshi.

Mobu adds that procurement via Sita has value for government, in that the cost to it is less than it would be in the open market, and that significant cost savings were generated over the old ISP service.

Currently the service provides throughput to government departments of 34.5 Mbps into the Internet backbone.

Erp on the fourth of July

Sita is in the process of implementing (for its own internal use) an ERP system based on Oracle technology. The system will consist of modules such as human resources; financial; supply chain management; project management and services.

Vusi Magagula, Sita CIO, says the option of a CRM module is still being vetted. "The intention was to go live in June. However, the many structural and business process changes at Sita have made this a moving target. The restructuring programme has effected changes in roles and responsibilities.

"Instead, we went live on the fourth of July with the core HR component. Others, including the remainder of HR and all financials, will go into production in September, and the rest will follow in October."

Magagula adds that the objective of the ERP project has been to create internal capability that enables better service delivery to government. "At any one time, you want to view, analyse and report on your key projects, related costs, and your financial status."

Bogoshi points out that the service component is crucial to the project. "Most of our products are project-based. You need close monitoring of the costing - something that has been a challenge in the past. The ERP system will enable us to sort that out."

To this, Magagula adds that, as the system underpins business processes, there had to be extensive business process re-engineering. "We really learned to be thorough with our business processes," Bogoshi joins in.

Mobu adds that Sita`s choice is not government`s duty to follow. "This is only for us. If government wants an ERP system - Sita is something of a first mover in government-associated circles to go with ERP - it would have to enter into a separate contract for its own system."

The team is proud of the skills transfer during implementation. "We are using a black-owned company called New Dawn Technologies and have matched their skills one-for-one with our own [`Sitazens`]," says Magagula. "There was no Oracle staff involved." "It is uncommon to make use of the skills within a black-owned company as the source of skills transfer," ventures Mobu.

Sita won`t disclose the amount of the contract, saying it is usual for vendors to supply to Sita as a springboard to get into government, and that the pricing it secured may not be matched by vendor pricing in government. "Suffice it to say it was a fraction of the cost of similar ERP implementations in the country," adds Bogoshi.

Volunteered information

Part of Sita`s value is its ability to use its economies of scale and past experiences to facilitate tenders for all sort of organisations - some non-governmental.

"Many municipalities, even schools, are enquiring about accessing our tenders" says Bogoshi. "We`ve allowed that. Tenders are in some cases already adjudicated, for example most of the country`s PC suppliers have already been evaluated, and we get the best value for money. In fact, it is part of our stipulation that you can`t beat our price.

"If the background work is done, the tender cost is less. Some of the provinces are ditching tenders - partly also because they`re risky.

"Tenders are always under scrutiny, and how many times have there had to be re-issued tenders?"

Joe Mazibuko, executive: Provincial and Local Government, adds his voice: "In some cases, the average tender turnaround days have been reduced by as much as 40%.

"What used to be 240 days was reduced to 119 days in February, and is now as little as under 100 days." Adds Mobu, "I have in my possession an independent report [still being considered by Procurement Services] attesting to that."

Bogoshi states that the new Sita regulations, due out shortly, will involve the customer more integrally in the tender process. "The customer now has a choice to accept our recommendation, rather than being forced to go with our advice.

"And the agency is implementing an e-procurement portal. Departments will be able to fill shopping baskets online and order technology supplies, in due course," he says.


On the back of the GCCN, Sita has connected all government departments on a common infrastructure.

To improve and efficiency these customers are all being moved to their own VPNs, and Sita is implementing intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems (IDS/IPS) at a cost of R40 million.

These systems also handle spam filtering and defence against distributed denial-of-service attacks, launched by malicious hackers or zombie-like Trojan-infected botnets of enslaved computers.

"This will be the basis of an MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) VPN," says Bogoshi

Furthermore, VOIP is being piloted by Sita at several buildings in Johannesburg and the Free State (on top of government`s own VOIP tests). "The point is that it would be duplication if government had to have separate voice, mobile voice and data networks, if you could simply use the same GCCN for all three," Magagula says.

Tags: Progress  check  on  SITA