The State Information Technology Agencybriefed the Committee.
Since 2002 the mandate of SITA has been improvement of service delivery to the public using Information Communication Technology. This allowed SITA to be aligned with the accounting officers for the departments, moving from IT metrics of success to service delivery metrics of success.Despite this change the make-up of the people hired has not been adjusted to meet this mandate. A problem which is currently being addressed is that many government departments did not have disaster recovery programmes. Because of the lack of stability in terms of leadership which SITA has experienced, programmes were never properly carried through, making the Agency extremely unstable. Information Technology constitutes a relatively large amount of government spending but the returns do not reflect this.
Barriers faced are lack of customer confidence, a demoralised workforce, and problems with processes and operational measures. Most of the Agency’s services are in end user computer devices; in the servers, storage and mainframes environment; and application development and maintenance. The State Information Technology Agency essentially had a budget of R6.4 billion, the biggest cost being procurement at R1.8 billion. 84 employees work on procurement, but because it is done manually this has created a number of governance and internal control challenges. An automated system will go live at the end of the month. 1065 people are employed in application maintenance and development, but of the 1065 only 136 are employed in application development, leading to outdated systems.
The State Information Technology Agency is currently developing a new costing model, which explains why the tariffs are at their current rate. The departments that are the biggest consumers of the Agency’s services are South African Police Services and the Department of Defence. The province which is the biggest consumer of SITA services is KwaZulu-Natal.
On service delivery problems from an infrastructure perspective in the hosting environment, a strategic refresh is needed. This is covered in the cloud strategy. Application development will become more important. Application maintenance will be reviewed, specifically the number of people employed in application maintenance. The issue with networks has been the relative cost of network services compared to capacity. The data centre and switching centres were areas of concern but have since been stabilised. The Agency is working with National Treasury around the gCommerce platform which deals with the automation of procurement of goods and services.
The Committee sought clarity on the State Information Technology Agency’s strategic objectives and measurable goals; and on whether there was correlation between an increase in spending by government on e-governance and productivity in e-governance. The Agency responded that its Annual Performance Plan was shorter and simpler but also more operational. There is a correlation between government spending and results, but quality of spending is just as important.
Members asked if the State Information Technology Agency had capacity in terms of infrastructure and human capital so that it could deliver. The Agency responded that it did not but it was being worked on.
Members asked whether all officials in senior and key positions had been vetted and if any were foreigners. The response was that there were no foreigners in senior positions, up until this point vetting is still not at 100%.
Members also sought clarity on the relationship between the State Information Technology Agency and the Department of Social Development. The Agency responded that it had been approached by the Department of Social Development to take over its IT systems. The Service Level Agreement between the Department of Social Development and the Agency is currently being reviewed.
Briefing by SITA on services rendered to Government Departments
Dr Setumo Mohapi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SITA,briefed the Committee.
In 1999 the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) was created by combining the Information Technology (IT) units of National Treasury, the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the Department of Defence (DOD). This was the foundation of SITA, later on the IT units of all the departments were incorporated into SITA. The SITA Act was amended in 2002.
The mandate of SITA changed in 2002, making SITA’s first objective the improvement ofservice delivery to the public using Information Communication Technology (ICT). This allowed SITA to be aligned with the accounting officers for the departments, moving from IT metrics of success to service delivery metrics of success. Despite this change in mandate, what was not changed was the make-up of the type of people hired by SITA to meet this new mandate, this is now being addressed. SITA’s research plan and its implementation in the economy and society is not up to standard. An issue currently being addressed is recovery plans, as it is unacceptable that in 2017 certain government departments do not have disaster recovery. In the last two years, there has been serious work in this area.
No organisation can survive the kind of instability at leadership level which SITA has experienced. 18 CEO’s in 18 years. This meant that programmes were never allowed to be carried through. Given the challenges it is important to sustain leadership.
IT consumes a relatively large amount of government spending, however the outcomes and returns on this spending do not reflect this. ICT readiness and global economic competitiveness are clearly linked. No matter how ready and ICT ready a society and economy, this can be hindered if the government is not ICT ready and prepared. This ultimately means that SITA has an impact on the economic prospects of the country.
Barriers to SITA not living up to its potential, are customers not trusting SITA to deliver; a demoralised internal workforce as a result of issues such as leadership instability, being abused by customers, and outdated processes and operational measures.
Most of SITA’s services are in end user computer devices; in the servers, storage and mainframes environment and application development and maintenance. SITA essentially had a budget of R6.4 billion, with the biggest cost being procurement at R1.8 billion. 84 employees work on procurement, but because it is done manually this has created a number of governance and internal control challenges. An automated system will go live at the end of the month. 1065 people are employed in application maintenance and development, but of the 1065 only 136 are employed in application development. SITA is carrying programming issues from as far back as 1991. The psyche of a developer and maintainer are very different. More developers are needed to allow SITA to create new systems. SITA will need to work with private industries to upscale. SITA is now looking for developers and innovators. Around 64% of staff members are employed in sustaining existing operations. Around 67% of funds are used for maintaining existing infrastructure. This needs to change and move towards development, especially if one looks at what other SITA’s are doing in other countries.
SITA is currently developing a new costing model, which explains why the tariffs are at their current rate. This consists of asset values, cost to capital, depreciation and expenditure. This constitutes operational costs.
The departments that are the biggest consumers of SITA services are SAPS and the DOD. The province which is the biggest consumer of SITA services is KwaZulu-Natal.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is having challenges with procurement and networks. Approaches to hosting services need to be more dynamic in order to modernise. Application management is being addressed. More needs to be done to sell the value of service management as it is the first point of contact for consumers of SITA services. Architecture and security services are to be rebuilt. SITA is now getting its paper from the government printing works, but printing can still be done more efficiently. SITA notes the service delivery problems from an infrastructure perspective in the hosting environment. A strategic refresh is needed. This is covered in the cloud strategy. Application development will become more important. Application maintenance will be reviewed, specifically the number of people employed in application maintenance. The issue with networks has been the relative cost of network services compared to capacity. SITA has spent the last 18 months trying to solve the operational problems at the Department of Home Affairs. Everything is there, but the operational management layer needs to be beefed up. By June of this year the systems migrating from South African Revenue Services SARS to DHA will be safe, and the instabilities DHA have reported will be addressed. This is said in light of the guidelines by National Treasury that the use of consultants must be limited.
Data centre and switching centres were areas of concern but have since been stabilised. There are now capable people distributed around the country maintaining the switching centres.In certain cases modernisation work at some of the switching centres was not possible.
SITA is dealing with matters at DHA head-on. The backlog of old certificates was eliminated at the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The DHET admitted that the problems encountered in the November examination cycles had nothing to do with IT, with the IT problems having been sorted out. The real problems are in the colleges and need to be addressed, leading to problems such as inefficiency resulting in inefficient certification. There are however much more efficient and agile IT systems, despite the challenges. SAPS has faced problems with procurement, with SITA meeting with the leadership team on a monthly basis. DOD has faced problems with procurement. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has faced problems with application development and maintenance. The Department of Labour (DoL) has had problems with hosting modernisation, but this is being addressed as part of the infrastructure modernisation programme. SITA is working with National Treasury around the gCommerce platform, which deals with the automation of procurement of goods and services. The SITA board has approved a special transaction which will see SITA putting in place an automation system which will used through National Treasury’s authority, which should be used for the procurement of all goods and services in government. This will integrate with the central supply data base, and deal with vendor management. Demand management will be automated along with contract management, sourcing and buying. Modernisation programmes are in annexures A, B and C.
Mrs J Kilian (ANC) remarked that SITA is busy with self-correction and that this is very encouraging. She asked if in the coming year there would be a different approach to SITA’s strategic objectives and measurable goals. SITA’s greatest challenge will be the reputational damage, especially if DHA and DHET continue to experience problems. Therefore SITA should call-out the DHA and DHET when they are the cause of the problem and not SITA. SITA should be able to attract the right type of people, as young innovative people are needed in SITA and the public service in general.
Dr Mohapi responded that SITA’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) was much shorter and simpler. Although it could be more strategic it is operational. It is true that SITA has reputational issues. A number of things have been done to address the reputational damage. The marketing strategy has been changed, with SITA hosting an industry day for cloud and other initiatives.
Mr C Mackenzie (DA) congratulated Dr Mohapi on his presentation. He asked how many countries were ranked on the global e-governance ranking, and whether our ranking improves the more we spend. Is there a sweet spot for government spending on IT identified internationally that has the most productive results. In terms of South Africa’s e-government strategy is there a section of government that takes charge of South Africa’s e-government vision, and who coordinates this. In terms of the provincial departments on page 21 of the report, is e-innovation in the Western Cape vs. e-governance in Gauteng the same thing or is it just word play. What should be done by the Eastern Cape to move them off the bottom of the list besides an increase in spending. Does SITA approach government departments for application development, or do the departments come to SITA.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) asked if SITA had capacity in human capital and infrastructure in order to deliver.
Mr T Manyoni (ANC) asked if all managers in senior and key positions were vetted, and if there are any foreigners employed by SITA in key positions.The presentation shows that SITA provides services to the Department of Social Development, what is SITA’s role in terms of service delivery with both the DSD and the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA). Does SITA have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the DSD?
Dr Mohapi responded that there were between 130-140 countries used in the e-governance ranking. There is a correlation between government spending and results, but quality of spending is just as important. South Africa spends more than other countries, including countries higher on the ranking than South Africa. We go out and look what has been done in other countries in terms of Research and Development, but a lot more of this needs to be done. The strategy for e-government is now owned by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS). SITA has come up with an implementation strategy. In terms of coordination at the G-Talk meeting a session was held where e-government services which were cross-departmental and cut across the different levels of government were discussed so that it could be coordinated. Good ideas were discussed and brought forward. In the Eastern Cape there has been a very welcome change of approach. SITA is working with the provincial Director-General.
Dr Mohapi responded that in terms whether SITA has the necessary capacity at both a human capital and infrastructure level the answer is no. In the context of cloud technology SITA does not have capacity. Human Resources are also not well capacitated, and could do better.
SITA is still not at 100% with people being vetted and will take some time, but this is in progress with meetings held on a monthly basis. Hiring foreign nationals is allowed within the organisation, but this requires the approval of the necessary people. There are no foreign nationals on the senior management. SITA plays no role with respect to SASSA. DSD has approached SITA in the last six months, to take over their IT systems and strategic IT. The SLA with DSD is currently being reviewed.
The Chairperson mentioned the importance of vetting of foreigners.
Dr Mohapi responded that the system by which it is done is getting tighter.
The Chairperson mentioned the importance of SITA as well as the importance of innovation and certification.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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