Home Affairs sued for refusing to pay R76m bill

AFTER years of unsuccessfully trying to negotiate payment of a multi-million rand bill, a disgruntled Johannesburg businessman is suing the Department of Home Affairs for refusing to pay him.

Otto Moswane, the chief executive officer of Double Ring, has since 2009 fought with Home Affairs over its refusal to pay his company R76-million and has now approached the Pretoria High Court.

Double Ring was appointed in 2006 to supply mobile offices. This enabled the department to send vehicles with internet connection to remote areas to allow it to process identity documents to the public on the spot.

At the centre of the dispute is the fact that Double Ring sourced internet bandwidth from a foreign company and the department claims that it was invoiced in US dollars while it believed services were provided locally.

Double Ring claims that the department knew, when signing the contract, that the bandwidth would be sourced from abroad.

The Double Ring lawsuit, and other legal claims, form part of several reasons why Auditor-General Terence Nombembe gave the department a qualified audit opinion for the 2011/2012 financial year.

The department is currently faced with R1.2-billion in pending legal claims, varying from tender disputes, civil and immigrants claims to vehicle collisions and personal injuries.

Mkhuseli Apleni, the department's director-general, said they would defend the case against Moswane.

Last year, the department paid a R2.27-billion settlement to JSE-listed ICT group Gijima after initially disputing the validity of a contract in which Gijima was in 2008 appointed to overhaul the department's ICT infrastructure.