WCape govt to ombudsman about ‘Zille in contract fix’ report

2013-01-29 16:25

A news report on a contract between the Western Cape and marketing agency TBWA/Hunt Lascaris is incorrect, the provincial government has said.

“The New Age’s front page lead today is as hysterical, inaccurate and obstinate as a rebuked three-year-old. Fine for a three-year-old – not so much for a national newspaper,” Western Cape spokesperson Nick Clelland said today in a statement.

“The headline and story are factually inaccurate, misleading and clearly motivated by animus [ill-will]. Consequently, we will be submitting a formal complaint to the Press Ombudsman.”

The newspaper said it would be available to comment later today.

The headline of report read: “Zille in contract fix”.

According to the article the communications contract was supposed to end on December 31.

Documents seen by the newspaper reportedly state that the TBWA/Hunt Lascaris contract had been renewed and the company would be paid R6 million for the first six months of 2013, and a further R1 million a month for the remaining six months.

The documents also reportedly reveal that Western Cape provincial government director general Brent Gerber wrote in a letter at the end of May that there was a decision not to extend the contract, and that Premier Helen Zille agreed.

Clelland said the new contract was an extension of current service.

“[This is]... perfectly allowable in terms of the existing contract with TBWA. [It] was made by the director-general, not the premier,” he said.

“This was made clear to the journalist in our response to him yesterday.”

Clelland said the extension was done to ensure that the tender process for a new communications contract was correct.

“This fastidious attention to detail has, as can be expected, taken longer to complete than originally planned.”

Clelland said The New Age’s journalist was told that comments to the newspaper on the issue should be attributed to him, however, the report credited Zille’s spokesperson, Zak Mbhele.

The previous communications tender was awarded to TBWA/Hunt Lascaris in 2010.

In August 2011, the ANC asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate whether the contract was irregular, following a report by the Sunday Times that correct supply chain management procedures had not been followed.

In her final report on the tender, Madonsela made four findings of maladministration and none of unlawfulness.

She did not recommend that the contract be scrapped.

Clelland said the entire exercise was “a storm in a teacup stirred up by our political opponents”.

“Today’s instalment is but the latest in a slew of ad-hominem [personal] attacks on Premier Zille over the last week,” he said. “[The] ... story read with others on the front page lifts the veil on The New Age and they stand exposed as the political mouthpiece they really are.”

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