City of Joburg suspends official implicated in 'inexplicable' R1.3bn broadband acquisition

21 July 2017 - 12:00 By Timeslive
A file photo of the Johannesburg skyline.
A file photo of the Johannesburg skyline.
Image: Gallo Images/ Thinkstock

The City of Johannesburg has suspended a senior official implicated in the controversial awarding of a R1.3 billion broadband contract.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said the suspension followed an independent forensic investigation‚ which had called for corrective action.

"In addition he is seen to be deliberately frustrating an investigation into the City’s seemingly inexplicable R1.3-billion acquisition of the 900km broadband network in 2015. This acquisition was done through MTC‚ a Municipal Owned Entity‚ which possessed no viable business plan nor had requisite capacity to run a broadband operation of this size‚" Mashaba said in a statement.

"The suspended official refused to allow investigators access to a number of devices which are believed to contain crucial information relating to the investigation."

The city has since been granted a court order to create mirror images of the official's devices.

Mashaba said the Johannesburg Broadband Network Project was meant to cut costs and boost affordable internet access to residents.

"Despite the astronomical cost‚ few of these benefits have been realized‚ necessitating a thorough investigation into this project‚" he said.

The tender was originally awarded on 19 December 2008 to a consortium but was terminated in 2014 after the city decided to operate the network itself through the MTC‚ which ended the 2015/16 financial year with a net loss of R54 million.

"By February of this year‚ MTC still continued to function with no viable business plan. In his most recent report‚ the Auditor General also found that the performance of MTC could not be assessed due to the lack of a viable business plan from the entity‚" Mashaba said.

"As a City‚ we cannot allow officials to undermine our residents’ right to know how and why their hard earned money was used to create an inefficiently operated entity which has drained the City of resources needed for service delivery."