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09 Apr 2009 15:34
A Cape Town public relations company has rejected a Democratic Alliance (DA) claim that there are “serious grounds for concern” over payouts totalling more than R44-million it received from the Western Cape government.
DA provincial spokesperson on public accounts Robin Carlisle told journalists at a briefing on Thursday that payments to Hip-Hop Media over a 30-month period included R4,1-million for adverts for former president Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.
Hip-Hop had charged the premier’s office over R9000 for photographing former premier Ebrahim Rasool’s visit to one township during the xenophobia crisis, and was paid R628 000 by the provincial transport department for an interfaith church service.
There were puzzling identical payments on a list supplied by the premier’s office, including a pair of R44Nbsp;346,71 charges for venue cancellation fees.
The list also shows Hip-Hop billed the office almost a quarter of a million rands for “winter jackets for staff”.
“It is ... clear that there are serious grounds for concern as to whether the taxpayers’ money was spent wisely or well,” Carlisle said.
At the start of the briefing he said he had just been handed a letter from Hip-Hop warning him to stop “continuing to impune [sic] the good name and reputation of Hip-Hop”, and threatening legal action.
However, what he was going to say was in the public interest, he said.
“I’m not suggesting anything is criminal, but I’m suggesting we would be in breach of our constitutional obligation if we didn’t find out what actually went on here.
“And the ANC shares that view,” he said.
“Suffice to say there are deeply troubling aspects about it.”
He said the bulk of the spending occurred while Rasool, who was deposed by his own party in August last year, was still in office.
Carlisle said Hip-Hop’s directors included individuals with strong ANC links.
He vowed that there would be a full probe into the spending if the DA came to power in the province in the coming general election, and said it would likely still happen even if the ANC was returned.
Hip-Hop said in a statement after the briefing that it welcomed a probe into provincial spending on media agencies, but that it was speaking to lawyers about Carlisle’s “wild and unsubstantiated allegations”.
The Hip-Hop letter handed to Carlisle, signed by client director Vukile Pokwana, said Hip-Hop got the contract with the province following a legitimate tender process.
“Thereafter all work done was always in terms a written contract and there was nothing untoward in us receiving this work,” Pokwana said.
“It is unfortunate that you have chosen to make Hip-Hop Media the political football in trying to score points before the elections.”
The costs billed to province included payments to outside service providers such as newspapers and radio stations.
Hip-Hop’s own fees were “a very small percentage” of total campaign costs.
Pokwana said Hip-Hop was not suggesting Carlisle as a politician should not do what he was mandated to do, but that he should act responsibly.
“Your actions thus far has [sic] sullied our good name and reputation and under the circumstances we have briefed our attorneys to recover such damages as we are in law entitled to,” the letter said.—Sapa
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