There was nothing unlawful about the Western Cape government's awarding a branding contract to advertising agency TBWA, the public protector has said.
Thuli Madonsela, however, made four findings of maladministration on Fridays, but did not recommend that the contract be cancelled.
“I haven’t made a finding of unlawfulness,” she told reporters in Pretoria.
Madonsela was asked by, among others, the ANC in the Western Cape to investigate whether the department of the provincial premier had employed proper demand side management regarding procurement of the contract.
She had to find out whether failure to do so had resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, whether the department had kept proper records of proceedings of the bid evaluation committee, and whether the appointment of two special advisers to the committee to award the contract was unlawful or proper.
Madonsela said although it was not unlawful to appoint premier Helen Zille’s special advisers to the committee, it created the suspicion of political involvement and was ill-advised.
She found the department had failed to employ proper demand management processes and had wasted over R8 000 in public money when it advertised the tender for the branding contract twice because of this. The tender referred to in the report was advertised, contrary to allegations, she found.
The department had also failed to keep records of the minutes of the bid committee meetings, which amounted to maladministration.
However she said the allegation that the amount involved for the tender was R1-billion was not supported by evidence.
The contract provided for R1.5-million for once-off “deliverables” and the total cost of communication services for the whole provincial government was limited to R70-million.
No evidence was found or presented that Zille participated in the procurement process. She was also part of limiting the amount to R70 million, Madonsela found.
She criticised the media for publishing a leaked draft report on the matter.
ANC provincial secretary in the Western Cape Songezo Mjongile, one of the complainants, said he was disappointed by the report.
“We feel there are substantial issues that have been watered down.”
The ANC would take the report to the standing committee on public accounts in Parliament, and possibly take legal action.
Zille welcomed the public protector’s finding.
“The report shows, above all, that the entire exercise was a storm in a teacup stirred up by our political opponents,” she told reporters in Cape Town.
“The entire affair was a waste of the public protector’s time and cost the South African taxpayer hundreds of thousands of rands at least, that could have been better spent on service delivery.”
Zille said the report found no corruption and political involvement, interference or manipulation in the procurement process. She was also not personally involved in the process.
She said it was found that the presence of two special advisers on the tender bid evaluation committee had made no difference to the outcome of the evaluation.
Madonsela found that some administrative processes in managing transversal tenders, those which involved various government departments and strict treasury regulations, were faulty.
Zille said the provincial treasury had picked up these faults long beforehand and steps were taken to rectify them. – Sapa