Helen Zille responds to the Public Protector’s final report

We welcome the release of the Public Protector’s final report on the communications tender which vindicates the Western Cape Government on this matter. The report shows, above all, that the entire exercise was a storm in a teacup stirred up by our political opponents. We appreciate the fact that the Public Protector took our comments, and those of our senior counsel, seriously.

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 better have been spent on service delivery.

In fact, it would be useful to analyse the complainants and their motives which we believe have been shown to be both frivolous and malicious by the content of the final report. In this context, it is also essential to ask who leaked the draft report, an action that the Public Protector states she finds unfortunate and unethical.

From the outset, it was stated in the draft report (and confirmed in the final report) that:

There was no corruption in the awarding of the TBWA/Hunt-Lascaris contract.
There was no political involvement, interference or manipulation in the procurement process.
The Premier was not personally involved in the procurement process.
The presence of special advisers on the tender bid evaluation committee made no difference to the outcome of the evaluation.

The Public Protector’s final report differs from the draft report in several key ways. Contrary to the draft, the final report concludes that there was nothing unlawful in the awarding of the contract and it withdraws the finding that it was invalid. It thus also withdraws the recommendations that the contract be cancelled and that disciplinary processes be instituted against certain officials implicated in the draft report.

In the event, the Public Protector has found that some of our administrative processes in managing transversal tenders – especially those relating to demand management – were faulty, but we had already identified this problem early on in the process and taken steps to rectify it.

The report confirms that the amount of money at issue is R8696 spent on re-advertising the tender. We disagree that this constituted ‘fruitless and wasteful expenditure’, because it must be seen relative to the cost of not re-advertising and potentially compromising the process further. (To put this amount into perspective, it is about the same we spent flying officials to the Public Protector’s media briefing in Pretoria this morning.)

In conclusion, the tender was therefore validly awarded and the contract is legitimate, which is precisely and exactly what our own internal assessment concluded long before it was taken to the Public Protector and our political opponents sought to make a mountain out of a molehill. They now stand exposed.

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