NSSA loses US$4,5m in botched computer deal

Elias Mambo
NATIONAL Social Security Authority (NSSA) lost close to US$4,5 million in a botched computerisation deal after terminating the service provider’s contract citing incompetence.NSSA recently re-tendered the contract for the supply and implementation of social security systems after the original tender winners, Professional Computer Services (PCS), allegedly failed to provide a functioning system to agreed specifications.
Although NSSA terminated PCS’ contract in 2008, it only paid out the company most of the money this year to avoid legal battles.
However, a report gleaned by the Zimbabwe Independent suggests NSSA was negligent as it failed to solicit input from the Central Computer Bureau to carry out due diligence on PCS to find out if the company had the capacity to deliver on the project.
The report shows PCS is apparently more into computer training than hardware and software.
The project was supposed to take eight months but it failed to take off, resulting in NSSA general manager James Matiza terminating the contract in April 2008, two years after it should have been completed.
However, Matiza told the Independent NSSA had to terminate the contract to save the organisation from further financial losses after PCS failed to deliver.
“It’s true we had to pay the money so that we could free the authority to look for another contractor to supply us with a system that works,” said Matiza. “We were very patient with PCS and went to arbitrations but they still failed to deliver,” he said.
A source close to the NSSA computerisation deal said the project was supposed to be monitored by the Central Computer Bureau to ensure self-interests did not compromise the process.
“NSSA cannot be the judge and the jury in this case,” said the source. “An independent body was supposed to be consulted to avoid cancelling the deal without exhausting all other avenues which were open to Matiza as the contract with PCS dictated.”
The source also said most NSSA officials manning the project lacked requisite experience in computer software, plunging the project into chaos as some had personal interests.
“There is no guarantee that the NSSA computerisation programme will be a success as long as the same people are involved and as long as NSSA does not involve external consultants in the tendering process to make sure people with personal interests in the deal are weeded out,” the source added.