Nomvula Mokonyane is the Minister of Communications. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane did not sign an IT contract worth almost R1 billion while Water and Sanitation minister - the responsibility of signing contracts lay with her senior public servant.

This was the reaction of Mokonyane's spokesperson Mlimandlela Ndamase minutes after President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation to allow the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to probe the illegal award of a tender to IT giant SAP.

In his proclamation, Ramaphosa has asked the SIU to look into allegations that the procurement of, or contracting for, information technology-related services from SAP had not been fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective, and that legislation, guidelines or policies had been flouted.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko also said that the SIU has been tasked to investigate any improper or unlawful conduct by personnel of the Department of Water and Sanitation or SAP.

She also said that the investigations would include any other person or entity, as well as the causes of such conduct, and any losses, damage or actual or potential prejudice suffered by the department or the State.

In his response, Ndamase said: “The Minister does not sign any contract. It is the responsibility of the HOD”. He later referred all enquiries on the matter to the Department of Water and Sanitation.

The Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau was not available for comment.

Similar questions allegedly linking Mokonyane to the apparent fraudulent deal were put to the department last year. Replying to a set of questions, Ratau reportedly said: “The original process of the acquisition of SAP was approved by the executive authority (Mokonyane) and was duly finalised by the Accounting Officer as delegated by the PFMA.

“This approval was preceded by the ICT committee considerations and Bid Adjudication Committee recommendations,” Ratau said.

At the time, Ratau said the department approved the tender to allow it to manage the funding on infrastructure projects and the entire source-to-tap network on a single platform; hence its extension to its subsidiaries and water boards.

He said SAP technology provided such critical core business requirements and through leveraging economies of scale, the department was able to drive out this strategic programme.

But Ramaphosa is adamant that the proclamation would allow the SIU to investigate the national Department of Water and Sanitation for alleged serious maladministration and unlawful expenditure of public money in the procurement or contracting of information technology services from the enterprise software provider SAP SE (SAP).

Diko said the investigation would focus on a period between January 2015 and the present, saying “although unlawful or improper conduct prior to January 2015 that is deemed relevant to this matter will be taken into account”.

Mokonyane was appointed Communications Minister in February following a cabinet reshuffle. Last month, she became a fully-fledged member of parliament.

Political Bureau