Gallery darling’s dodgy dealings

2013-04-21 14:00

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Records show contractor was hired without proper process.

Thandi Sibisi, the glamorous owner of an up-market art gallery and one of the new “it girls”, is at the centre of a more than R3?million contract controversy.

Sibisi’s company, Invogue Marketing Concepts, was given a lucrative deal by the North West’s ministry of sport, arts and culture without it going out to tender.

Documents reveal how Sibisi, who owns a gallery in Joburg’s posh Melrose Arch, scored the lucrative deal in 2011.

She was given the contract to help stage the provincial leg of the national sports awards.

Documents show the contract was handed to her by Hlomane Chauke, former MEC for sport, arts and ­culture.

The deal was railroaded through after Chauke’s ministry claimed urgent circumstances stopped them from following normal tender processes.

But other documents show Sibisi had ­already been contracted to work on the project months before the ministry claimed any “urgency”.

Asked to comment on the contract this week, Sibisi ­refused and threatened to have this reporter frogmarched from her art ­gallery by the security guards.

She later complained that she was being “stalked” by this reporter, although she refused to respond to repeated ­requests for comment.

The North West government has denied any irregularities. Chauke is now head of the province’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). He admitted to knowing Sibisi, but denied any impropriety.

He said he was introduced to her by Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile.

“I know her from a business point of view when she was sent by Minister Mashatile to do some work in the province.

(This was) when Gauteng and North West wanted to host a carnival, but that project died.

“I know her very well because she even organised some artists from North West to exhibit at her gallery,” Chauke said. Mashatile’s spokesperson, Percy Mthimkhulu, said the minister “has no ­relation with Ms Sibisi”.

Documents show that Chauke had a direct hand in appointing Invogue Marketing and also reveal how normal tender processes were flouted.

One of the documents, a letter dated May 25 2011, was written by Thabo Mabe, at the time a director in Chauke’s office, and sent to former acting head of department Victor Mogajane.

It informs Chauke that Sibisi’s company would be involved in the provincial sports awards organising effort.

“The magnitude of this event expects our department to also take part in all the logistical preparations for the success of the ceremony,” the letter says.

“It is against this background that the MEC has enlisted the services of Invogue Concepts, an event management company, to coordinate the logistical preparations from our province.”

The department then signed a memorandum of understanding with Sibisi on May 31 2011.

More than a week later, documents show that the department’s chief financial officer, Siphiwe Ngwenya, told the supply chain management team to add the company to its database of suppliers. But five months later, on November 29, a chief director in the department, Hans Komane, wrote a motivation letter to new head of department Desiree Tlhoaele.

In it, Komane asked to be absolved from following proper procurement procedure so that Invogue could be appointed as a service provider for the awards.

In that letter, Komane claimed the “magnitude of work” required an additional service provider to be enlisted, “hence the last-minute call and appointment of ­Invogue”.

“There is, however, limited time at our disposal to advertise tender for goods required and services required for this great event,” he wrote.

Tlhoaele approved the request and Sibisi was paid R901?344 and R2?232?010 on two separate occasions.

The latter payment, however, was made more than two months before Komane’s letter was even written.

The provincial government this week said Komane’s letter was “a procedural note”, not an appointment letter.

“The deviation letter was a means to deal with the difference of time between actual delivery/implementation and submission of invoices, not to appoint a service ­provider,” it said in a written response. The law requires that there should be competitive bidding for transactions exceeding R500?000, except under exceptional circumstances.

A lack of proper planning is not normally considered an exceptional circumstance.

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