SAPS forks out R25m on external consultants to polish its image

2015-02-01 16:00

The SA Police Service (SAPS) is spending R25?million on external communications companies in a bid to polish the image of national commissioner Riah Phiyega and the often-criticised police force.

But questions have been raised about why SAPS communications head Solomon Makgale would spend so much money on consultants when there are more than 200 people working under him in the communications unit.

The first company – The Communications Firm – will provide reputation management, media monitoring and analysis, as well as public relations services to the police. Its contract is worth R9.6?million.

Another firm – The Switch Design Company – has been appointed for two years to handle creative conceptualisation, copywriting and designing of artwork. Its contract is valued at R5.4?million.

Negotiations are under way with a third company to provide brand management services, with its contract estimated to be R10?million.

But current and past staff members of the SAPS communications division who spoke to City Press have questioned the decision to outsource these functions, saying it was a waste of money because there was more than enough internal capacity in the police to handle all the work that is being given to outside firms.

“The SAPS has a fully fledged communications unit. They do their own work, produce their own banners and graphics, and perform all of those functions that are now being outsourced.

“What will they do with the more than 200 staff members in communications?” asked an SAPS insider.

The staff structure at the SAPS communications unit includes 10 senior managers at the level of director, each earning more than R800?000 a year, and two chief directors appointed by Makgale himself.

In all nine provinces, the communications units are headed by directors who have sizable numbers of staff members assisting at all levels to run the communications machinery.

One senior manager within the communications unit said they were also surprised that Makgale was bringing in consultants to do the work when he had failed to produce a communications strategy to drive the work of the unit.

“How do you bring in consultants when you can’t even produce a communications strategy? We are still waiting for one. This is just a waste of money,” said a communications manager who asked not to be named.

Makgale told City Press that he was bringing in outside communications companies because there was insufficient capacity within the

SAPS to handle all its corporate communications needs.

“A skills audit within the corporate communications division was done. It indicated that the basic requisite skills mandatory for an organisation such as the SAPS were insufficient to deal effectively with communication requirements from an internal and external point of view,” Makgale said.

He said The Communications Firm would assist with “identifying positive media coverage and assisting with the management of crisis situations”.

The Switch Design Company would focus on designing pamphlets and other materials, and the third company would work on brand management and aligning the behaviour of employees with the values of the SAPS.

Makgale said there was nothing untoward in the awarding of the contracts, and all tenders had been advertised and proper procurement processes had been followed.

He acknowledged that one of the companies did work for Acsa when he was communications manager there, but said the second company was appointed after he left.

“They were not appointed by me. The Switch Design Company got a job from Acsa more than a year after I left,” Makgale said.

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