In the past three years, the Free State government has awarded multiple contracts worth millions of rand to Letlaka Group, the company controlled by Tumi Ntsele, the man who benefited directly from the province’s controversial R40m-plus website tender.
The claims have been levelled by Democratic Alliance Free State leader Patricia Kopane, who says Free State premier Ace Magashule is using government marketing contracts to channel millions of rand in public funds to Letlaka.
“In exchange for this enrichment, Letlaka Group … is selling the premier’s image to the public during a time of service delivery collapse in the Free State,” Kopane says.
She says that in the past three years, Magashule and his director-general, Elzabe Rockman, have awarded several lucrative advertising contracts to Ntsele under “irregular circumstances”. Ntsele’s company has grown from a small start-up to a group with “several communications arms”.
Some of the contracts include a R2,6m payment to Letlaka for acting as the event manager at Magashule’s 2009 state-of-the-province address and a R4,2m advertising contract that was awarded to Letlaka’s newspaper, The Weekly, without going out to tender, Kopane says.
Rockman signed the advertising deal in June 2010 when she was the secretary of the legislature. According to the DA, all government advertising was centralised in Magashule’s office in November 2010 and Letlaka was awarded a R300 000/month contract for printing and distribution of government marketing material.
In addition, in the past three months the Free State government spent an estimated R1,6m on advertising in The Weekly. The DA says this estimate was reached using the paper’s standard advertising rates. During the period 30 November 2012 to 8 March 2013, the Free State government placed 88 ads in just 10 editions of The Weekly.
A further R12m/year was directed towards Hlasela TV, another of Letlaka’s businesses, which is broadcast to 100 public buildings in the province.
Kopane says the “massively inflated” website tender — reportedly worth as much as R140m — was awarded to Letlaka Group as part of a consortium, even though there were cheaper bidders.
Magashule’s office is looking to build an “expensive propaganda media network in the Free State”, she says. This includes three new newspapers the premier’s office intends to launch, alongside new community radio stations.
On Monday, the DA asked public protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate ethics violations committed by Magashule in his “enrichment” of Ntsele and the Letlaka Group. “We trust that the public protector will see justice done on this matter within the 30-day time period specified for ethics investigations.” — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media
- See also: R140m website: new revelations