The saga of South Africa’s very slow digital migration process continues as the Department of Communications has announced an investigation into the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa‘s (USAASA) procurement of set-top boxes (STBs).
The department’s minister, Faith Muthambi highlighted this yesterday in an answer to a questions posed in parliament.
USAASA reportedly awarded a tender worth R4.3 billion to 26 manufacturers to produce STBs and other infrastructure such as antennae and satellite dishes.
Of the 26, orders were placed in August this year with three manufacturers, namely Bua Africa, CZ Electronics and Leratadima. Bua Africa, formerly known as NAMEC Microtronix, is alleged to have imported their STBs from Shenzhen, China.
Criteria for securing the tender included having the STBs manufactured in South Africa.
“We have since engaged with USAASA to ascertain if these allegations are true or not. These allegations further warrant the department to institute a formal investigation into the entire process of the procurement of STBs, antennae and satellite dishes by USAASA,” Muthambi said. “To this end we have engaged the services of the National Treasury, in particular the Fraud and Risk Unit, to conduct an investigation into the procurement process.”
The department has already missed the international digital migration deadline a number of times. Earlier this year, Muthambi announced it will take two years before the switch over and set-top box distribution is completed.
So far, 1 000 underprivileged households have been registered by the South African Post Office to receive free STBs, the department said.