The Khomanani Communication Consortium (KCC), with principal parties Sadmon Projects and Consulting, Sizwe Ntsaluba VSP, Izwi Multimedia and TBWA Hunt Lascaris, won the lucrative R190-million government tender in May 2007.
Since the expiry of tender last year, KCC was given R85-million by government for a further six months until the end of March. KCC is now angling for a further R45-million, three-month extension, according to documents in Health-e’s possession.
But the KCC’s campaign appears to have been characterised by incompetence and nepotism, with little attempt to measure its impact.
Sadmon Programme Manager Cyril Sadiki has spurned the HIV/AIDS prevention experts who advised previous Khomanani campaigns in favour of a group of people with little or no experience. Among the people Sadiki has appointed to run the country’s most critical health campaign are close family member Tommy Sadike, his friend and unemployed Limpopo teacher Moses Maluleke and former colleague Aloma Foster.
Sources allege that Maluleke was unable to operate a computer or run a meeting when he joined Sadmon.
KCC’s only strategic advisors are radio DJ Criselda Kananda, who has supported AIDS denialists in the past, and Dr Pinky Ndaba, a general practitioner at Alexandra Clinic.
The KCC has produced virtually no new media, relying instead on reprinting media produced by previous consortiums.
Sadiki refused to answer a list of detailed questions and twice refused to be interviewed. He has also refused to work with the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) despite being asked to do so by the health minister.
Budget documents in possession of Health-e reveal that KCC was charging over R2-million a month as an “administration and management fee” as well as R2,5-million for strategic advice to the health department – although no one seems to know what advice is being given.
The budget also included R15-million to run the “Khomanani Communication Action” at four sites in the nine provinces, yet no details are supplied.
Despite its lack of delivery, KCC has once again been given a contract to manage the communication around the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign launched this month by health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi , despite objections from SANAC.
The only apparent indication from the Health Department that things are not going that smoothly was the removal of health official Thami Skenjana as head of Khomanani. Instead, the KCC now reports to the overworked Dr Yogan Pillay, acting Director General in the health department.
Prior to World AIDS Day on December 1 last year, the SANAC Communication Technical Task Team sent a letter to Dr Pillay, warning that the event could severely embarrass the president and health minister.
The task team requested that SANAC be given responsibility for the World AIDS Day event and the new HIV Counselling and Testing campaign. This request was ignored and the KCC was paid to host a World AIDS Day event for which the details are sketchy .
In a follow-up letter to SANAC CEO Dr Nono Simelela in January, the communication task team expressed its unhappiness with the “Khomanani team” in relation to World AIDS Day. Task team co-chair Dr Sue Goldstein claims that requests via Simelela’s office for formal reports about the costs and reach of World AIDS Day communications by the KCC were refused .
The Sadmon website states that the company “plays a pivotal role of project managing and providing client service” on the Khomanani programme. It also states that “Cyril put together a consortium called the Khomanani Communication Consortium and included Sadmon as a project management corporation to bid for the tender”.
Sadiki also claims on the website to have worked for another government-funded prevention campaign LoveLife. However, LoveLife denies every having employed him.
In a five-page letter to SANAC and the health department in February, Sadiki responds bitterly to the SANAC Communication Task Team’s criticism. But he fails to clarify the allegations of “large fees” paid to strategic advisors and companies in KCC.
“How large are (sic) the fees is another question we cannot debate here, but suffice to say this falls within our contractual agreement with DOH and their sign-offs,” Sadiki wrote.
He also acknowledges that they had been unhappy with the directive to report to SANAC and had been left with no option but to formally request the health department to observe the contractual agreement “thereby protecting us from dealing with the (SANAC) Secretariat”.
Sadiki also says “all sorts of allegations were made about KCC (after their appointment in 2007). This included prophecies of doom that it would be a matter of less than a year before things fell apart with financial scandals and lack of strategy from KCC”.
Sadiki adds that the KCC has e been left in the dark after being ordered to report to SANAC and that the minister wanted to see the brand done away with.
Several requests by Health-e for copies of the contract and budgets and explanations of budget line items were ignored.
Meanwhile, the Health Department’s Fidel Hadebe said that while he was aware of the calls for a forensic audit of the Khomanani Consortium but that the department so far had no grounds to believe that money had been misappropriated.When asked about the widespread perception in the AIDS sector that the consortium was incompetent, Hadebe said notion of incompetence was “subjective”.