EC Premier’s Broadband Project blown through R606 million

Issued by Kobus Botha, MPL
Office of the Premier portfolio committee member

Serious questions need to be asked about whether Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s Broadband Project is delivering value for money to Eastern Cape departments.

In response to a parliamentary question, Premier Mabuyane confirmed that, to date, four sites have been connected to broadband infrastructure.

The project has already cost taxpayers in excess of R606 million over the last three financial years, with a further R277 million budgeted for the current 2020/21 financial year.

The connected sites are the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, Cecelia Makhiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth and the Provincial Disaster Management Centre in Bhisho.

See: IQP 22 2nd session reply Q507

In sharp contrast the DA-governed Western Cape have reached their target of 1875 connected sites, including 1200 schools, over 200 libraries and over 400 other public facilities. They are now in the process of converting 1600 broadband points into free WiFi spots for communities.

The premier is claiming that 42 sites will be connected by the end of September and plans to connect a total of 619 sites by the end of the financial year.

I find this difficult to believe considering it took his department several years to connect these four sites. The three hospitals were connected over a year ago, and since then, no further rollout to health facilities appears to have taken place.

Premier Mabuyane’s office has bled the public purse. When one considers the amount of money and time that this project has taken, the department has no excuse. Perhaps it is high time that the Premier accepts that his Department, and the litany of consultants that he has contracted to advise on this project, have no idea what they are doing!

The Premier has missed a momentous opportunity to leapfrog this province into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, at a time when digital migration was most needed. The broadband project would have ensured government sites were digitally enabled, streamlining their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this never happened.

I will now be writing to the Premier to demand that his office provide an outline each of the 619 sites identified, and the time frames for the implementation of each project. His office also needs to account for the funds spent thus far.

If no such response is forthcoming from his office, I will be requesting that the matter be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and Provincial Treasury, and if need be, demand that a full audit be done on funds paid to date.

Should any irregularities be found, those responsible must be held to account. We cannot afford to waste public funds if we do not see a return on investment