Broadband beat the introduction of the internet, which was placed second. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

The Gauteng Department of Finance has denied owing the Gauteng Online schools project service providers more than R167 million.

Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe and department head Stewart Lumka said in Joburgon Monday that the department’s accounts with the service providers had been settled.

The online project was in the spotlight last week when an internal audit report leaked to The Star said the project was not “functioning economically, efficiently and effectively”.

The report, conducted by the provincial government’s Gauteng Audit Services during the 2010/2011 financial year, also found that the department had underspent by close to R165m on its budget allocated to the project.

This was despite the department’s account with the project’s service providers at the time – SMMT Telematics Consortium, RMB and Nokusa Consulting – being in arrears.

The audit found that in April last year, when the report was done, SMMT and RMB were owed about R234m in equipment-rental payments.

According to SMMT’s financial statements, seen by The Star, the department still owes the service provider more than R167m in rental and service level agreement payments.

This amount, which dates back from October 2010 to April 12 this year, includes penalties for interest accumulated during this period.

However, Lumka said the statements were “mischievous and incorrect” and maintained the department was up to date with its payments.

Nkomfe said 1 557 schools have an operational Gauteng Online lab, and the 621 other schools would be connected by the end of this financial year. - The Star