Acting government communications spokesperson Phumla Williams testified at the state capture inquiry, Williams rrplaced former government spokesman Mzwanyele Manyi who lef GCIS a uyear after he was appointed to replace Themba Maseko. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/AfricanNewsAgency/ANA

Johannesburg - Acting director-general at GCIS Phumla Williams has told the state capture inquiry that procurement officials were bullied into funding The New Age (TNA) breakfast briefings that were hosted in partnership with the SABC. 

Williams said the TNA breakfast briefings did not fall within the mandate of media buying under the GCIS but despite that, R55 million was paid to TNA and Infinity Media, both owned by the Gupta family, between 2011 and 2015. 

She said she was surprised when she was told by the Hawks that GCIS had been involved in funding the TNA breakfast briefings. 

"It came to my attention after I was interviewed by the Hawks. I did not genuinely believe it and I said there is no TNA breakfast that was processed by GCIS. I said to them that there have never been. But they (Hawks) insisted that they know that GCIS did do it. When they left, I called the head of procurement and she confirmed that yes, that happened and that they were bullied into doing it," said Williams. 

Williams said the chief financial officer at the GCIS, Zweli Momeka, had been the one who pushed the payments through. 

The acting DG said the TNA briefings did not fall within the GCIS's mandate of media advertising and that the procurement division had made it clear that if they would fund such events it would have to go through proper procurement processes which included other media house being allowed to bid. 

"The delegations that we had agreed on with National Treasury was for broadcasting and print. Nowhere in our delegation did we have breakfasts. That was the issue with supply chain when they said it does not fit into the Thelma software," she said. 

"Their understanding (supply chain) was that it did not fall with their delegation and their understanding was that it should go through the normal procurement processes like any other media company. It was not the sole service provider. That service should have been put to the market," said Williams. 

"The paper I have seen they (media bulk buying) tried to convince supply chain that it (TNA breakfasts) is advertising."

The TNA breakfast briefings were hosted regularly and were broadcast on SABC. It was revealed last year that it cost the public broadcaster R20 million to host the breakfasts and every cent was paid to The New Age. 

Former communication minister Ayanda Dlodlo also revealed in Parliament last year that her department had spent R1 million to host the business briefing in 2016, during her predecessor Faith Muthambi. 

Change in culture

Williams also testified about how the environment at GCIS quickly changed after Manyi was appointed as CEO in January 2011. He was appointed to replace Themba Maseko who was fired at former president Jacob Zuma's request after he refused to give the Gupta family access to the GCIS media advertising budget. 

She said there was no handover between Maskeo and Manyi and that immediately after Maseko left, Manyi was waiting at GCIS basement parking ready to take over as the new DG. 

Williams said Manyi implemented numerous changes that went against the culture of the organisation.

Manyi, who is a known to have a close relationship with Zuma and the Gupta family, directed that the media buying division should report to him. 

He also took control of the tender board committee and the internal audit committee. 

Williams will continue testifying on Monday. 

The commission's chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo will Monday also decide whether to allow cross-examination.

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