Free State website firm to be investigated by National Treasury

Letlaka Media, the company that charged ZAR47 million (approximately US$5.1 million) for the redesign of the Free State government’s website, may lose its government contracts as the National Treasury investigates.

HumanIPO reported last week newspaper allegations the Free State government spent ZAR140 million (US$15.4 million) to update a WordPress-powered website. The costs for the website and other related websites are now reported to be at ZAR47 million (US$5.1 million).

The Free State defended its spending and said it would investigate whether it got value for money.

According to City Press, minister of finance Pravin Gordhan has launched probes into various tender contracts which were awarded by Ace Magashule, Premier of the Free State.

City Press reports it has a forensic report in its possession pertaining to two previous contracts awarded to Letlaka Media by Magashule’s office, which have now been cancelled.

According to the report, criminal charges could be issued should further investigations be initiated into the two cancelled contracts.

The report, compiled by JGL Forensic Services, contains 51 pages and was submitted to the National Treasury in December last year. It states Magashule’s office’s appointment to handle the procurement of goods and services for the Free State provincial government may constitute “financial misconduct.”

Furthermore, the report gives details as to how provincial departments were being bullied into signing a letter, which was drafted by Elzabe Rockman, the Free State’s director-general.

Tumi Ntsele, the owner of Letlaka Media, was awarded contracts for printing and distributing and events management tenders, both advertised by Magashule’s office, aside from the controversial website redesigning tender. Letlaka Media apparently also benefitted from media bulk buying services through advertising in its own newspaper, The Weekly.

The Weekly is a pro-government newspaper owned by Ntsele. The newspaper reportedly received much advertising from Magashule’s office. The report claims the newspaper was funded almost entirely by the Free State provincial government and, by extension, tax-paying citizens.

“The Weekly can therefore be classified as a fully government subsidised newspaper, printed by a private sector entity on their behalf. Without government advertising, The Weekly would not be published or in any way viable and compete in the open market,” states the report.

Mondli Mvambi, spokesperson for Magashule’s office, told City Press the office is aware of the investigation by the National Treasury into “certain contracts awarded three years ago to various service providers with expertise in the areas of event management, printing and media bulk buying.”

Ntsele of Letlaka Media, however, told City Press through his lawyer he would not comment.

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