Although the business deal to move the COVID-19 Toll Free Call Centre from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) to Brastorne Enterprises (Pty) Ltd was not based on a commercial agreement, the contract signed by the National Coordinator of the COVID-19 Task Force, was contrary to Section 7 and 8 (g) of the Corona (COVID-19) Emergency Procurement Procedures for Essential Services, PPADB Circular No.4 of 2020 dated 1st April 2020 which gives only the accounting officers total authority and responsibility for approval and execution of the procurement process in procuring entities, the Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, concluded in her report.
Letebele’s report, which has been tabled before Parliament, says it was observed that an operation centre was activated at the MYSC. In addition, the system at the MYSC was improved through provision of software licences procured from ICL Botswana Pty Ltd for P638 479.52. Payment was made with GPO No. 001200 dated 3 May 2020, with a part payment of P437 236.80 made on 25 May 2020.
“According to NEOC Call Centre Report dated 17 August 2020, the Call Centre was migrated from MYSC to a private facility, Brastorne Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, before the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) could even complete implementation of the development of the new call centre,” says the report. “There was no documentary evidence providing reasons for the migration. It was not cost-effective to acquire a system that was abandoned and never utilized.”
According to the Auditor General’s report, even the existing COVID-19 Call Centre was not efficient, with (an) NEOC report indicating that data capturing was done manually, resulting in discrepancies in categorisation and distribution of calls.
The report says data from the call centre was not always complete and was not timeously submitted to the NEOC, which led to lapses in reporting to relevant authorities. For instance, an NEOC report highlighted that there were complaints about calls not being answered but the number could not be established. Secondly, calls could not be classified because the IP Phones used were not integrated to a HEAT-System.
These underlying conditions were attributable in part to inadequate monitoring and supervision of the call centre, as indicated by the NEOC Call Centre Report dated 17 August 2020. In addition, the call centre activities were not adequately coordinated, as it had no coordinator. This led to a fragmented and delayed reporting process that hindered information dissemination.