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Poor maintenance of ICT infrastructure blamed for server crash at GPW

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Bongani Shilubane

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Bongani Shilubane

Published Jul 6, 2022


Cape Town - The cause of the crash of the server at the Government Printing Works (GPW) in February 2021 was due to the poor maintenance of the ICT infrastructure at the institution.

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This is one of the findings made by the seven-member ministerial review panel appointed by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to probe the crashing of the server that led to loss of data at the entity and affected the printing of the Government Gazette and delays in compiling its annual reports for the past two financial years, among other things.

Briefing the home affairs portfolio committee on Tuesday, panel chairperson Papati Malavi said the chief information officer (CIO) and his team did not know how to perform proper functions on the server.

Malavi said the functions of the server included loading discs, scrubbing them before loading new data and ensuring that there was proper back-ups should there be a problem.

“All of this (was) accompanied by a lack of support and maintenance contracts with service providers for the servicing of ICT-related equipment.

“Underpinning these issues, however, is a failure of management and supervision at various levels which are the ultimate cause of systemic failures at the GPW,” he said.

Malavi told the MPs that the panel was informed that the loss of critical information may never be recovered.

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“The data from the (server) is unrecoverable based on the expert opinions received. The main contributor to the loss of data is the absence of back-ups covering the period 2019/20 up to February 4 2021,” he said.

Malavi said the panel was informed by staff members of the ICT division of the GPW that the crash was caused by a surge in electricity when power resumed after a load shedding.

“The panel contacted Eskom and the City of Tshwane and established that there were no power outages on the relevant days. The panel subsequently found that the surge was caused by non-compliant electrical installations at Pavillion 2 (GPW) which housed the crashed server.”

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In its recommendations, the panel said disciplinary action should be taken against several officials, both present and former.

It also recommended that charges should be on gross negligence, reckless disregard of business continuity, security breaches, failure to ensure that replacement disks to the crashed server were scrubbed and that data centres were adequately backed up, among others.

The panel also said Motsoaledi should consider cautioning two of the institution’s top officials to understand the importance of ICT function and to ensure that the incident did not happen again.

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Cape Times