Muthambi’s R1.6m New Age ads were ‘irregular’

2015-03-01 15:00

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The department of communications is set to declare that about R1.6?million spent by Minister Faith Muthambi on a spread of adverts in one edition of The New Age newspaper was irregular expenditure.

This comes as the battle between Muthambi and senior managers in her department intensifies.

Muthambi took out an eight-page spread in The New Age in January, which featured advertisements profiling the Free State government.

But senior managers at the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) – which manages the placement of government ads – were apparently not aware the adverts were being placed in the paper.

“It took us by surprise. We saw the adverts in the paper, but nobody authorised them. The minister and her people went behind our back,” said one of the managers, who asked not to be named.

The insider said the amount spent on the adverts – in a single edition – raised red flags at National Treasury, which asked for an explanation.

“We are writing to National Treasury to say they should declare this expenditure irregular,” the insider said.

The GCIS, which Muthambi tried to shut down, has been re-established as a separate entity from the department of communications. It coordinates government communications and handles state advertising.

Muthambi, through acting director-general Donald Liphoko, has also written letters to three deputy directors-general in the department – Nebo Legoabe, Harold Maloka and Phumla Williams – in effect stripping them of most of their responsibilities.

The three are said to have fought back, telling Liphoko that his actions were in contravention of public service regulations. He is said to have backed off after they challenged him.

“Those letters effectively amounted to firing them. That is against public service regulations; it’s against the law,” said another senior manager, who also asked not to be named.

Muthambi has been battling senior staff members in the department since she took over. Among the decisions that have resulted in a loss of confidence in Muthambi was the demotion of Williams – who was acting director-general – replacing her with Liphoko, who was chief director at the time of his promotion and in effect Williams’ junior.

There has also been unhappiness about her decision to appoint former GCIS CEO Jimmy Manyi as an adviser.

Manyi left GCIS when his contract was not renewed. Muthambi has also made SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng a trusted lieutenant, and recently invited him to a strategic planning session at the department.

There, sources who were present told City Press, the initial parts of a plan to “fight back” against the media for negative coverage of themselves, the SABC and the department were revealed.

Asked for comment, Liphoko said: “I am afraid you are being intentionally misled. The matters you have raised are all speculative, and I can assure you that if they were true they would be documented as formal complaints.”

Muthambi, meanwhile, took to Twitter two weeks ago to express her frustrations.

“Attempts to put my department under siege will NOT succeed. I have a job to do and I will do it with passion for the people of South Africa.

“Yes am [sic] here to shake things up. Government communications will never be the same anymore. Detractors of government will be very uncomfortable.

“Just like all the various Ministers of Finance, I should start a ‘Tips for Faith’. It seems there is no shortage of ideas on how to run my dept,” she also tweeted.

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