Government brings its spin system back

2015-02-01 15:00

The Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) is being re-established as a separate entity, a move insiders say will further sideline beleaguered Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

The GCIS was disbanded shortly after national elections in May last year and absorbed into the newly established communications department.

Two government sources have confirmed the GCIS is on its way back and a portion of the staff component of the communications department and budget – which will be kept separate – will be transferred once it becomes an independent entity. Its CEO will be appointed at the level of director-general and will in effect be the Cabinet spokesperson.

This move is the result of unhappiness with how government communications are being handled under Muthambi, insiders told City Press.

The communications minister was initially given the task of communicating on behalf of Cabinet. However, after a couple of unimpressive performances in front of journalists, that job was handed to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

Muthambi has ruffled feathers since her appointment.

She sidelined acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams and installed one of her juniors as acting director-general in the department of communications. Williams has since been seconded to assist Radebe with Cabinet-related communications.

The newly established GCIS will still fall under Muthambi’s department, but its CEO, it is expected, will make independent decisions.

A senior official close to the process said: “It was a mistake to disband GCIS and now government communications is in a mess under this minister. We need it to go back to being a separate entity in order to coordinate all government communications, as it did before.”

Another official said there was excitement within the communications department about the re-establishment of the GCIS as a separate entity.

“A lot of staff members were unhappy about the disbandment [of the GCIS] and having to fall under the new department,” the second official said. “There has been a feeling that a lot of the focus on the core function of communications has been lost.”

Jimmy Manyi, who is now adviser to Muthambi, was the last CEO of the GCIS and the Cabinet spokesperson, but his contract was not renewed when it expired.

City Press sent questions to Donald Liphoko, the acting director-general in the communications department, but he had not responded at the time of going to press.

Adverts seeking a permanent director-general in the department of communications and a CEO for the GCIS were exclusively placed in The New Age newspaper two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, City Press understands eyebrows were raised in the department about what was perceived as bias towards The New Age when it came to channelling government advertising. The paper is owned by the politically connected Gupta family.

It was revealed this week, in reply to a parliamentary question, that The New Age – with a readership of just more than 150?000 – had received about R10?million in advertising from government, while papers with substantially higher readership figures had received far less.

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