What was seen by many South African defence watchers as a major step to improving communication between the national defence force and the public is bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.
It started in July last year with the issuing of a Department of Defence (DoD) tender seeking marketing and communication services. The tender was awarded to Randburg-based Tsalena Media, apparently for the three year period specified in the tender.
Since then, a number of email interactions with DoD head of communication (HOC) Siphiwe Dlamini have not elaborated on the scope of work provided in tender documentation. Just the opposite, this publication has been advised to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to find out what services will be provided by the successful tenderer.
There are 10 points in the scope of work as per tender documentation. These include media buying, publishing and delivering DoD publications, design and creative work, event management services and “assisting in promoting and marketing key programmes”.
Asked to explain, Dlamini told defenceWeb he basically could not as the Central Procurement Service Centre (CPSC) was the “entity responsible” and “custodians of policies, processes and regulations including whether information can be released to the public or media”.
He acknowledged being the “person responsible for communication” and setting the terms of reference and scope of work. “I also brief companies that tendered and that is where my work ends. The process is not mine but what needs to be done under the auspices of CPSC”.
Asked if there was any need for the information to come via the PAIA, African Defence Review director Darren Olivier said the contract was “worth paying close attention to”.
“This, not only because of its length (three years) and value (not disclosed in tender documentation), but because of the difficulty in measuring return on investment and the public relations consequences of mistakes.
“At a time when the DoD faces severe financial chaos with the pending closure of the Special Defence Account (SDA) it needs to put its best foot forward when attempting to convince a sceptical public and uninterested Cabinet of its value. For that reason it’s important for the process around this tender and the criteria used in awarding it to be as public and transparent as possible in order to ensure the DoD achieves the right amount of value,” he said.
As far as defenceWeb has been able to ascertain, without confirmation, it appears Tsalena has been doing at least some media buying on behalf of the DoD and SA National Defence Force (SANDF). The company also publishes the cover of a publication titled “Defence” on its website, but it is dated, referring to former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in one tagline.