This eNatis e-nonsense is not on, Mr Minister

There is a huge stink emanating from the Department of Transport.

There is a huge stink emanating from the Department of Transport.

It all started last month with Transport Minister Jeff Radebe launching the multimillion-rand electronic traffic information system (eNatis).

The state-of-the-art system enables the department to store all information on vehicle registrations, drivers' licences, traffic accidents and contraventions on a server.

When fully operational, the system will, for example, allow people to register their cars via the Internet or at ATMs.

The tender to provide the new system was granted in 2001 to Tasima Consortium.

Tasima is made up of three companies, Arvia.kom and Webcom Consulting, with Thuthukani Information Technology Services as their BEE partner.

Unfortunately, since its launch last month eNatis has been characterised by technical glitches, slow systems, long queues, backlogs and the closure of traffic centres.

As usual, the government's response has been wanting.

First, there was department spokesman Letau Letebele, who described the glitches as "teething problems".

When the situation worsened, the ministry intervened with Radebe's spokesman, Collin Msibi, ascribing the problem to the capacity that was brought in for the project.

On Monday, Msibi explained that on its launch the system had three servers, which proved to have inadequate capacity.

Msibi then assured the public that the problem had been solved with the purchase of another server that had capacity equal to the three servers used since the launch.

He then told the public technicians would work the whole of Monday to ensure the system was running by the following day.

Come Tuesday, the problems persisted. Radebe then apologised to the public.

And, horror of horrors, he announced that motorists and other eNatis users would have to fork out a R30 fee to help pay for the maintenance of the system.

Now the department's eNatis project manager, Werner Koekemoer, has said that part of the problem was that a billion records had accumulated over the past 14 years and had to be transferred to the new system.

What a revelation indeed!

One of the things that a supplier does after getting a tender is find out what the client's needs and expectations are. The system is then developed in line with the client's requirements.

In this instance, for example, the department would have provided information about the load of records the system was expected to cope with.

This information would have then helped the supplier come up with the kind of technical specifications the system needed to address the client's needs.

One of the basic questions suppliers are normally asked when selling a system is whether that system can be "scoped" to deal with the client's specific needs.

The transport department has a specific need to deal with accumulated records.

The department's IT division is expected to know this.

Somebody somewhere is not telling the truth.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer has forked out R408million with a promise that it was for improved service delivery.

Now Radebe is asking taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets if they want to get the service they expect.

This is not on, Mr Minister.