Rasool and the R44m spending spree

By Time of article published Apr 11, 2009

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By Andisiwe Makinana and Lynette Johns

An amount of R44-million was paid to one consultancy over 30 months to promote five Western Cape departments under the leadership of former premier Ebrahim Rasool.

In a written parliamentary reply from Premier Lynne Brown to the DA's Robin Carlisle, Brown confirmed that the five departments spent the R44m over 30 months with Hip Hop Media Services included organising events, placing advertising in newspapers and running campaigns.

Brown supplied the DA with the spreadsheet list of all the work done by the company, but emphasis was placed on the work done for the Department of the Premier and the Department of Public Works and Transport.

One of the single biggest sums, more than R4m, was for placing advertisements to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday. More than R3m went on a National Imbizo week, almost R2m to advertise their 21 priority areas, R1.2m on a "Tik off" campaign, R31 000 on hand-stitched soccer balls handed out at Rasool's last budget speech and R9 000 for photographs of the former premier's visits to Du Noon during the xenophobic violence last year.

This week the DA said it would call for a forensic investigation into the relationship between Hip Hop Media and the ANC government under Rasool to show if taxpayer's money was channelled to Hip Hop for Rasool's friends.

Hip Hop has hit back, saying there was nothing untoward about their contracts. They were carrying out work requested by government officials, they had to pay service providers and their fees were "a very small percentage" of total campaign costs.

ANC election manager and Health MEC Marius Fransman entered the fray on Friday, detailing some of the spending in his previous portfolio, public works. He accused Carlisle of "over-the-top spinning" and pointed fingers at those within his own party "hell-bent on destroying the ANC".

Provincial government spokesperson Jeremy Michaels confirmed the events and campaigns took place, but maintained the DA had some facts wrong and suggested the party "sweep in front of its own doors" first.

In a letter delivered by Hip Hop Media's lawyer to Carlisle, the company dismissed the DA statements as election point-scoring.

The written parliamentary reply to Carlisle gave details of amounts spent.

The figures had not been audited and the DA is now calling for an audit.

Carlisle also fingered the Department of Transport and Public works while under the leadership of Fransman, where R628 000 was spent on an inter-faith service, and consultancy fees to the Transport Department ran to R9.2m over the 30 months.

Carlisle suggested an external forensic investigation be launched to determine the relationship between Hip Hop Media and the ANC administration under Rasool.

Carlisle said while there was no evidence of fraud or wasteful expenditure, the expenses didn't make "the kind of sense they have to make".

"Someone should explain to us the payment of R628 000 for an interfaith prayer service, and why the Public Works and Transport Department would organise such a service."

Carlisle said if the DA won the April 22 elections, it would seek the forensic audit.

"Even if the ANC retains power, we have no doubt they won't oppose this."

Fransman said the inter-faith service, held in Beaufort West, had been organised as part of the festive season's Arrive Alive campaign. He stressed that politicians did not interfere with procurement as it was dealt with by departmental officials.

"There was no wrongful procurement. Carlisle is playing with words and figures as he is known to do," Fransman said.

Of greater concern, was why the DA had raised the question in the legislature and who suggested it, implying it was more to do with factionalism within the ANC than with the DA doing its job of being the opposition.

"Why are some so hell-bent on destroying the ANC internally?" he asked.

Michaels said there were inaccuracies about the campaigns in Carlisle's statement that needed to be corrected.

The "Tik off" campaign against drugs was conducted by the Department of the Premier and was launched together with Radio Good Hope and featured awareness campaigns; the communications campaign relating to the 90th birthday celebrations of Mandela was well-publicised in the media and government's iZimbizo programme in April last year was held in 14 communities.

Weekend Argus understands Hip Hop has done little or no work for the Department of the Premier since Brown took over.

Michaels added: "Were the DA seriously concerned about government media spending it would ask the City of Cape Town to open its books to public scrutiny.

"Many millions of rands are also being spent by the DA-led city, printing and placing inserts related to World Cup 2010, the Integrated Rapid Transport System and, just this week, annual budget," said Michaels.

Hip Hop denied as incorrect and "greatly exaggerated" the amounts mentioned by Carlisle.

Company director Vukile Pokwana wrote in a statement that: "Hip Hop Media responded to a legitimate tender in terms of the Public Finance Management Act in 2007.

Thereafter, we, along with four other media companies, were shortlisted from a pool of about 20 companies."

Pokwana said they had met tender specifications and on that basis, "and that basis alone", were appointed.

"Thereafter all work done was always in terms of a written contract and there was nothing untoward in us receiving this work.

"It is unfortunate that you have chosen to make Hip Hop Media the political football in trying to score points before the elections."

Pokwana threatened legal action against Carlisle, saying his actions had thus far sullied "our good name and reputation and under the circumstance, we have briefed our attorneys to recover such damages".

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