A week ago we picked up an article in the Cape Argus that intimated tender irregularities in the City of Cape Town’s Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate, headed up by Executive Director Anton Groenewald, reporting to Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing. Now action appears to have been taken, with a follow up report about a forensic investigation and the removal of laptops used by staff in the Directorate, including Councillor Pascoe’s computer!
The original article was difficult to follow, and we have re-read it, to summarise the report as follows: A three year multi-million Rand contract for branding for Cape Town (no logo has been created for brand Cape Town by Groenewald’s Directorate yet, as far as we know, and certainly has not been revealed for comment to date) was at risk of being cancelled, just as it was to be awarded. The proposed cancellation was denied by the City of Cape Town, even though the Cape Argus has documentation confirming the proposed cancellation. The branding was to be used at events, the City of Cape Town’s Finance department spokesperson Priya Reddy said. She also denied that cancelling the tender would be contrary to the host city agreement for the Chan soccer tournament in January, which includes a R6 million marketing commitment. The cancellation of the tender would be contrary to the City of Cape Town’s supply chain management policy.
Central to the branding drama appears to be Carol Avenant, and here the story becomes really fuzzy. In her time as Communications Director in the Western Cape government, reporting to Premier Helen Zille, fingers were pointed at her for the province’s advertising account being awarded to TBWA/Hunt Lascaris subsidiary Yellowwood Future Architects, at which Avenant also worked! Now it appears that Avenant has been appointed by the City, and that she is taking over the branding portfolio, hence the alleged cancellation of the tender.
Another source said that the City did not need its own branding as they would use that of Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro. Last week we asked Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro, and The City’s Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate to comment on the first Cape Argus report. Groenewald has not replied at all on behalf of the Tourism Directorate, out of character for him, but he may not have a computer anymore! Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten wrote: ‘The Wesgro position is simple. This relates to a procurement process by the City of Cape Town regarding a FUTURE brand for the City. The events, currently being hosted in the City, are by no means at risk’ (his emphasis).
Enver Duminy, CE (for Experience, his Twitter Bio reveals)O of Cape Town Tourism, wrote a very politically correct reply to the claims made in the article: ‘Cape Town Tourism (CTT) delivers tourism marketing and visitor services on behalf of the City of Cape Town since 2008. The content and materials created and produced along with associated Intellectual Property, by CTT in support of our mandate, resides with the City as governed in our Memorandum of Agreement. We cannot comment on the internal mechanisms and tender processes of the City, however the Brand of Cape Town is a valuable asset for the destination with all stakeholders contributing collectively to its success. Using major events as a catalyst to stimulate tourism growth is a key strategy of the Tourism, Events, and Marketing (TEaM) directorate of the City, and CTT supports their plans by delivering tourism marketing campaigns, messaging and destination knowledge to inform visitors to our City. CTT focuses on tourism marketing and our colleagues at WESGRO provide Trade and Investment Marketing and Promotion on behalf of the City, different yet complementing services as part of the value proposition of brand Cape Town’.
Two days after the first Cape Argus story was run, it followed up with a report which contained denials by the City of Cape Town, and justified the cancellation of the tender (having denied its cancellation initially!) on the basis of cost saving, and (bizarrely) not having understood that it would duplicate brand collateral work already done by its own Tourism Directorate! The impact of the cancellation of the tender on the Chan soccer tournament and Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour was strongly denied. The Cape Argus was accused of ‘distorting’ its reporting! In a dreadful indictment on Groenewald, Reddy is quoted as saying: ‘It needs to be made clear that the city’s director of tourism, events and marketing initiated a tender that did not take full cognisance of the broader deliverables that were required‘. The newspaper report adds: ‘The tender that was issued several months ago was for a full review of the entire city’s branding, and was released without the city having an approved policy or strategy. It should have been limited to the services needed by the tourism department‘.
A week later, late last week, the Cape Times ran a report about the tender irregularity, and shared the shock news that a number of computers had been seized in the City’s Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate, while it is being investigated by the City itself for ‘tender irregularities and mismanagement‘. The newspaper is unable to receive confirmation about the seized computers and the reasons thereof, and whether a forensic report will be issued. The City’s Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson and Mayoral Committee member for Finance said: ‘It would be improper to divulge any further information at this stage as it could compromise the investigation and any action that may arise from that investigation‘.
The report also shared that the tender would have included the marketing of Cape Town at its major events, such as the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. As these events are long-standing events which are run successfully by the organisers, one wonders why the City would want to market Cape Town at them at all, especially given that it took away the marketing of Cape Town from Cape Town Tourism a year ago so that it could do ‘Place Marketing’ itself!
The outcome of the investigation can be one of two: the issue will be suppressed and covered up, unless ANC Councillor Tony Ehrenreich performs his usual political role of showing up the DA! The other outcome could see the rolling of heads, and Groenewald’s may be the most likely, being implicated in the reports to date, Pascoe no doubt being spared for political reasons.
We have been critical of Pascoe as a Councillor and Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, as he has no clue about any of these three topics, yet he is a ‘good’ DA man in winning by-elections, for which he has been rewarded! It has been said that Groenewald’s Tourism Directorate has an immense budget of R500 million or so, having made him extremely powerful since his Directorate was created almost two years ago. We have heard that he and Mayor Patricia de Lille have had a huge fall-out, a surprise as one would have thought that Groenewald was a blue-eyed boy in the City. Clearly Groenewald is in the dog box. Of concern is that this could be another blow for Cape Town and its tourism industry, as the promised marketing of the city may yet again be put on hold! Of even greater concern is that the Directorate controls the budget of Cape Town Design NPC, the company managing Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014, Groenewald serving on its Board!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage