The controversial multimillion-rand relationship between Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and marketing and advertising agency TBWA/Hunt Lascaris has been extended even though it was supposed to end on December 31.

The New Age can reveal today that the contract, opposition parties claim to be for image boosting and a waste of taxpayers’ money, has not ended and has been extended by another year.

According to leaked documents in the possession of The New Age, this comes at a cost of R1m a month for taxpayers.

The as yet unannounced extension of the contract states that Hunt Lascaris/TBWA will be paid a further R6m for the first six months of this year and a further R1m a month for the remaining six months.

The documents also reveals that the Western Cape provincial government director-general Brent Gerber, sent a letter to Mr A Joemat, superintendent-general in the corporate services centre, at the end of May last year. In the letter Gerber said that there was an “in-principle decision not to extend the current communication contract with TBWA on expiry”. This decision was accepted by Zille.

The letter states: “I had a discussion with Premier Zille on May 28, 2012 on this same topic.

“Premier Zille agrees with the decision not to extend the current TBWA contract upon the expiry and affirms that the department should embark upon a fresh procurement process for branding and communication services for the Western Cape government.”

The letter is signed by Gerber and copied to Nick Clelland and Carol Avenant, the chairperson of the bid committee.

Two weeks before the contract with Hunt Lascaris was due to end last month the bid and adjudication committee in Zille’s department started a new process to extend the contract.

It’s “purpose” specifically declares the extension of the contract. The second leaked document’s purpose, also in the possession of The New Age, reveals: “To obtain approval to enter into negotiation with TBWA to extend the contract for an initial period of six months with the option to extend the contract further, providing the contract will not be extended for more than 12 months.”

On Monday Zille confirmed to The New Age that the contract had been extended. She said that TBWA “are paid as their services are utilised” with no fixed monthly fee.

She said the extension was “perfectly allowable in terms of the existing contract and made by the director-general, not the Premier”. The contract, she said, adhered “to all regulations, policies and prescripts”.

The process took longer than originally planned, due to “fastidious attention to detail”. Her comments were received through her spokesperson Zak Mbhele. Gerber said questions to him would be covered by that response.

TBWA/Hunt Lascaris CEO Derek Bouwer’s personal assistant said he was busy “in back-to-back meetings” and would respond today.

The bid document states, under the headline “Financial Implication”: “The estimated cost of the six-month extension would be R6m. For each month that the contract is extended after the initial six month period the estimated cost per month would be R1m.”

It is signed by the chairperson of the bid committee, Avenant and also signed by committee members Clelland and Drikus Basson and dated December 14.

Zille was at the centre of a scandal two years ago when it was discovered that she had given a R70m a year tender to consultancy TBWA/Hunt Lascaris to put a public spin on the provincial government she leads. The millions were and are being spent to polish the image of Zille and her province and became the subject of an investigation by the public protector’s office.

Claims were made of irregularities in awarding the contract, including that two of her advisers sat on the adjudication panel. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s final report, though not damning of the process, said it would have been wiser not to include two of the six people on the adjudication panel, Zille’s special advisers, Ryan Coetzee and Gavin Davis, when the tender was awarded to Hunt Lascaris/TBWA. The public protector found four instances of maladministration in the process, which Zille described as a “storm in a teacup”.

Article Source: The New Age

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