17 May 2018

South Africa: Police Supplier's Offices Closing, but Business Still Running

For employees working at embattled police IT supplier Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), Friday was the last day on the job.

News24 has reliably learnt that the offices of the company, which has been accused of wide-scale corruption in its police and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) contracts, have over the last few days closed their doors.

The company's landline has not been answered in days and when visiting its offices in Wapadrand in Pretoria this week, News24 was told that no employees were around as they were at a farewell party because the offices were clearing out.

In April FDA shut down the police's firearm permit system and property control and exhibit management. The company said the shutdown would continue until the police and SITA paid it. FDA said there had not been payment since October last year.

FDA's owner, businessman and ex-police officer Keith Keating, denied all allegations of corruption.

The two systems - as well as a system called the VA-Amis proprietary solution, supplied by Keating's other company Investigative Software Solutions (ISS) - were all switched off, leaving the police's capacity to handle forensic evidence, firearm controls and their ability to do in-depth tracking for investigations compromised.

FDA 'locked out'

Police, however, said that within days of the shutdown they had made contingency plans and the systems were up and running without any input from FDA or ISS.

Last week at a press briefing held by SITA, its CEO Setumo Mohapi said that FDA was locked out of the entire SITA environment.

"The first thing we did after Mr Keating switched off the systems, we locked him out of our entire environment," Mohapi said.

He said that within a few days of FDA shutting down the police systems in April they had them back up and running again.

Mohapi also said that during investigations they uncovered information which raised red flags about the contracts they had with FDA, going as far as saying that some documents appeared to have been forged.

He said that once they had concluded court processes they would attempt to recoup money from the company.

"We have a case against everything. The January investigations were specifically on FDA and related companies. In every one of them we have questions," he said.

Boeremag allegations an 'unfounded quantum leap'

Allegations against FDA have kept on mounting.

Earlier this month at a session of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, allegations were made that a cabal with ties with the Boeremag had been operating at SITA, and was part of the FDA dealings.

FDA denied this and said in a statement that to suggest that its software services were being run from a prison cell was a "completely unfounded quantum leap".

FDA said that several allegations against it emerged after it was approached by former SITA employees about two years ago who allegedly demanded that FDA give them company shares.

"This damaging campaign against FDA, ending in a mythical Boeremag takeover plot, has meant that FDA has not been paid since October 2017, resulting in the retrenchment of 62 hard-working and dedicated staff members," the company said in a statement.

It appears that all of this has led to the closure of the company's offices.

Court battles to continue

When asked if the offices had closed down, Keating said that "obviously with SAPS and SITA not paying for services for six months now it has had a negative impact.

"We have retrenched staff. This will not affect any of our court battles," Keating said.

He added that the businesses were not closing.

"We will continue our fight with SITA and SAPS. It was the prudent step to take to protect the employee's rights," Keating said.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the police would not make any further comment on their battle with FDA.

"We will not be making any further comment because this matter is before the courts," Naidoo said.

Source: News24

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