Metro averts digital shutdown

A digital crisis was averted at the 11th hour on Friday after the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality stepped in amid threats of its website and online information systems being shut down at the weekend due to a payment spat.

Mars Technologies, which is owed more than R300 000 by Mohlaleng Media, was going to pull the plug after the close of business on Friday after not being paid for work done in June and July.

The municipality’s online information systems such as the tender portal and GCIS system would have been knocked offline by Mars Technologies, which was sub-contracted by Mohlaleng Media in January last year.

The municipality’s local area network and dedicated data transfer service would also have been switched off.

It would not have affected municipal e-mails and telephone lines.

Mohlaleng Media, a Johannesburg company, was given a multimillion-rand communications tender at the start of last year, but it emerged later that the municipality had given the firm carte blanche to spend as it pleased. The city lifted the cap on what was initially a R10-million tender given to Mohlaleng Media over a three-year period, with the company having an unlimited cap.

Halfway through the contract, the municipality had dished out more than R20-million to Mohlaleng Media to supplement the work of the city’s communications department.

Acting corporate services executive director Vuyo Zitumane said pressure needed to be put on Mohlaleng Media to pay Mars Technologies.

“Since this money is already in the coffers of [Mohlaleng Media], it should ideally have been paid to Mars Technologies for services rendered,” she said.

Zitumane said the municipality was considering a deviation from the supply-chain-management process to pay Mars Technologies directly.

Mars Technologies had agreed on Friday to carry on supplying the digital services.

“We have already engaged Mars to continue … on a month-tomonth basis. They have agreed,” Zitumane said.

She said Mohlaleng Media had initially tried to provide the services but realised it was too “complex”.

“They would not be able to maintain the high standard which the municipality demanded.

“They then decided to sub-contract Mars Technologies to keep the municipal web environment up and running,” Zitumane said.

Mars Technologies regional manager Dominique September said the contract with Mohlaleng Media prohibited the Walmer business from disclosing any information.

“What we can disclose freely is [that] Mohlaleng Media is our client.

“We are sub-contracted to them to provide hosting and data centre services to the municipality,” he said.

Refusing to reveal how much money Mars Technologies was owed by Mohlaleng Media, September would only say they would be forced to carry the financial risk if the situation was not resolved between Mohlaleng Media and the municipality.

Mohlaleng Media chairman Mbuso Thabethe failed to answer questions sent to him via e-mail and WhatsApp.

After The Herald reported on Mohlaleng Media being given carte blanch last month, the communications contract was suspended but the firm is contesting the decision made by the municipality.

Leave a Reply