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Dept defends tender, payment for cancelled event

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The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture claims that there is nothing untoward and that all procurement processes were followed even though the Human Rights Day event in Colesberg never took place.

File image. Picture: Clive Mason

THE DEPARTMENT of Sport, Arts and Culture claims that there is nothing untoward and that all procurement processes were followed when HRA Trading was appointed to organise a Human Rights Day event in Colesberg, although it never took place, on March 21.

The matter is currently the subject of an investigation by the public protector and the Hawks.

HRA Trading Pty Ltd was awarded a R90 million tender in 2019 to organise the Kimberley Diamond Skate Cup.

The public protector earlier this year released a report where the head of department (HOD), Ruth Palm, was found guilty of approving a R1 million payment to Traffic Events Company for a series of three events in 2016.

The company was awarded R1 million by the Northern Cape Arts and Culture Council in 2016 to host the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural Festival, also in Colesberg, although it also never took place.

According to a departmental report that was signed off by Palm on September 7, the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture provided funds to the tune of R4 million for the 2020 Human Rights Day event, where the Province would fund the employment of marshals to mobilise the community, to the amount of R265 650.

The report stated that the department requested four quotations although only one company, HRA Trading Pty Ltd, submitted a quotation.

It was indicated that it was agreed to pay HRA Trading although the event had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown, as the company indicated that it had made commitments to its partners and was involved in preparations for the event.

“Province engaged with the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture as the budget resided with them. After a lengthy engagement HRA Trading, based on their business acumen, proposed that they should be paid for expenses incurred with proof of payment through bank statements. HRA could have demanded the entire amount or even 50 percent of the order.”

It was further stated that HRA Trading was requested to pay the volunteers as an “immediate request”.

HRA Trading was paid an amount of R265 650 on March 23 for the volunteers while payment of R1 million was done on May 12 for the expenses incurred from the date of order issued.

The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Conrad Fortune, indicated that four events management companies were appointed to host events on behalf of the department over a three-year period from April 1, 2017 to March 31 this year.

“The appointment of these companies was done through the government tender process, which is guided by specific financial management policies. As part of the service level agreement with the appointed companies, they are compelled to appoint local services, especially when it comes to catering for the masses as well as transport to the event, volunteers for mobilisation, marshals at the event and security personnel,” said Fortune.

He explained that four companies were provided with the specifications for a specific event. “Separate quotes were made for each event. The companies were also appointed on a rotational basis.”

Fortune stated that the 2020 Human Rights Day tender was awarded to HRA Trading to provide the specific services as requested.

“They were then provided with an order number in February after which they started with the process of planning and co-ordinating the national Human Rights Day in conjunction with the national and provincial Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the Office of the Premier and the Presidency.”

He added that all mass gatherings to celebrate national days, including Human Rights Day, were cancelled when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the nationwide lockdown on March 15.

“On March 13, 2020 the service provider was informed that they must not incur any further expenses in terms of deposits for any services to be rendered for Human Rights Day. The president addressed the nation on March 15 and based on the rapid spread of Covid-19 at that stage we did not know what measures were going to be put in place.”

Fortune explained that the service provider was only reimbursed for the expenses incurred before March 13.

“The service provider was required to provide proof of evidence of expenses such as bank statements proving expenses, receipts, invoices etc. This was based on the fact that it was not the fault of the service provider that the event was cancelled and hence he was reimbursed for expenses incurred.”

He said the National Human Rights Day event was planned in Colesberg as part of the process of the reburial of community members in Colesberg who had succumbed to the Spanish flu in the early 1900s.

“The national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture indicated that the event should be held in Colesberg and that those who succumbed to the flu had to receive a dignified reburial. When we host commemorative days there is a significance to where the event is held, as we strive to remember our past as it plays an important role in the history of our country.”

Fortune pointed out that the department was not involved in the appointment of the service providers for the Kimberley Diamond Cup.

“They were not appointed by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to plan and co-ordinate the Kimberley Diamond Cup as it is a function that resides with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism.”

Premier Zamani Saul on Wednesday was not overly concerned about allegations relating to the irregular payments that were approved by Palm for the 2020 Human Rights Day event that was cancelled.

“This year would have seen us host the National Human Rights Day event in Colesberg. As per the norm with these events, companies were invited to submit quotations for the successful roll-out of the event.”