The Department of Home Affairs has cancelled a R5bn-R6bn tender to issue smart identity cards to replace the green ID books after confidential information was leaked to the industry.

Home affairs director-general Mavuso Msimang said yesterday the tender was withdrawn.

Bidding consortiums have not yet been told officially about this.

The introduction of smart cards has been in the pipeline for almost a decade, but became policy only a few years ago. The tender for the production of about 50-million smart cards closed in May last year.

The leaks emanated from the State IT Agency (Sita), the department responsible for adjudicating the government’s technology tenders. Irregularities included reports about which company had won the deal, although Msimang said his department had not received a recommendation on which consortium the contract should be awarded to.

“There were lots of leakages, so the board and management has put a hold on it,” Msimang said. The alert was sounded by the auditor-general during an investigation of procurement practices at Sita, which has been dogged by accusations of corruption and incompetence since its formation 10 years ago.

The department asked to see the auditor’s report, which could have clarified the type of information that was leaked and who had leaked it to which bidders. But the report never seemed to be completed, Msimang said.

“When we didn’t receive any information as to what was happening we decided to cancel it.” Large IT companies, including Business Connexion, Dimension Data and GijimaAST, submitted bids for the contract.

Business Connexion’s public sector executive Isaac Mophatlane said malpractices and mismanagement at Sita were damaging the industry. Although Msimang did not clarify how home affairs might proceed, Mophatlane said the Treasury might be asked to oversee the tender.