NYDA blows cash

2011-10-08 18:34

R100 000 for balloons, R60 000 for confetti and R90 000 for a headstone.

These are some of the exorbitant payments made by the National Youth Development Agency – a government agency tasked with creating jobs for the youth – to politically connected businesspeople and artists for last December’s World Festival of Youth and Students.

Shocking evidence of the agency’s excessive spending on the R106-million party have been revealed for the first time in hundreds of pages of documents. These were obtained by Media24 Investigations after a 10-month legal battle using access to information legislation.

The documents reveal that:
» A company owned by “kwaito king” Arthur Mafokate was paid R5.3 million for providing entertainment, including expensive balloons and confetti;

» A company owned by Mafikozolo band manager Julius Mekwa received a contract worth almost R9 million for managing the opening and closing ceremonies;

» Bitline SA, a company owned by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s well-known business associate Ali Boshielo, scored more than R1 million for providing bags, T-shirts and other paraphernalia; and

» A company owned by a Springs police officer won a R21.7-million tender to provide catering and was paid R6.5 million upfront before the tender was cancelled.

Last week, the agency, which is dominated by youth league supporters and former office bearers, handed over invoices, payment details and contracts following an agreement which was made a court order.

The so-called “kissing festival”, funded through a R40-million grant from the National Lotteries Board and R29?million from the Presidency, among others, has been the focus of ongoing controversy and is also the subject of an investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The documents show questionable payments to politically linked individuals or entities and how millions were spent on items like bottled water, T-shirts and other merchandise.

In one case, a construction company was paid more than R2?million to provide posters, banners, T-shirts and volunteers with loud-hailers.

Approached for comment this week, those who received the contracts either defended them as having been won in fair tender processes or ignored requests to comment. The documents provided to City Press do not contain any evidence of tenders which may have been issued although the access to information request asked for the specifications of the contracts.

The documents also show that only a few companies appear to have provided basic supporting documents – such as tax clearance certificates – which are standard in state tender deals.

Many were paid large portions of the contract value on acceptance of the invoice, with services still to be provided.

The youth agency’s chief executive, Steve Ngubeni – who is a former deputy secretary-general of the ANC Youth League – conceded in an interview this week that proper procedures had not been followed in all cases, but defended the agency’s conduct in spending the R106 million.

The festival, which was attended by thousands of young people from across the world, was derided as an organisational catastrophe as speakers failed to attend, seminars were cancelled and logistical problems snowballed.

Headlines recorded how delegates played kissing games in the sun as they waited for something to happen.

Last week, the agency only highlighted the fact that it received an unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor-General (AG), ignoring the matters of emphasis relating to the festival and its own operational spending. Ngubeni said the agency had hoped to lay the controversy over the festival “to rest”.

The AG noted at least R26 million of irregular expenditure relating to the festival and highlighted other problems such as normal tender procedures not being adhered to.

Events coordinator Farah Fortune was flabbergasted by the costs of the event. “Somebody is being ripped off by somebody somewhere,” she said.

She did not spend “anywhere near these amounts” when she coordinated the wedding for President Jacob Zuma’s daughter Duduzile.

“What did they feed the youth, caviar?” she asked. – Additional reporting by Erna van Wyk 

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