17 June 2024 | 12:28 PM

Advocacy: We take on the LOC

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The Mail & Guardian and the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Adriaan Basson are taking the 2010 Fifa World Cup local Organising Committee (LOC) and its chief executive, Danny Jordaan, to court over their refusal to supply information about tenders.

The matter is likely to be heard in the South Gauteng High Court in late May after the LOC failed to comply with Basson’s request for information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The M&G editor Nic Dawes and Basson will argue in court that the LOC exercised public power when it advertised and awarded contracts for last year’s curtain-raiser tournament, the Confederations Cup, and the coming World Cup showcase.

Jordaan and the committee deny they have to comply with the same transparency measures as government entities in awarding tenders.

In the applicants’ founding affidavit, Dawes argues that it is in the public interest to know how the committee spent its money.

“The organisation, staging and hosting of the Confederations Cup and the World Cup are matters of manifest public interest to the citizens of South Africa, and indeed internationally,” Dawes argues.

“The World Cup is the most significant sporting event in the world — For the duration of the World Cup, and indeed ever since it has been awarded the right to host the World Cup, South Africa has been and will continue to be in the international spotlight.

“It is of the utmost importance to the public that the World Cup is the best tournament it possibly can be. This includes ensuring that the best service providers were employed as a result of the tender process and that no corruption, graft or incompetence was involved in the tendering process.”

Dawes argues that the M&G is entitled to these records to exercise its right to freedom of expression, vindicate the public’s right to information on matters of public interest and give meaningful effect to the paper’s right to information.

The application was prompted by the LOC’s bungled awarding of Confederations Cup contracts last June. An M&G article by Basson revealed that less than two weeks before the tournament kicked off, no security company had been awarded the contract to protect stadiums, spectators and VIPs.

Last-minute security arrangements meant that poorly trained security guards were deployed to safeguard matches and that 800 police officers were used to secure fans and venues — the responsibility of the committee and not the state.

When Basson requested details of the tender processes, the committee said it was “general policy” not to release the names of companies awarded tenders.

In his answering affidavit, Jordaan says the committee is the body “ultimately responsible for all operational matters pertaining to the 2010 Fifa World Cup”, but adds that the committee is mainly funded by Fifa, a private company, and that Dawes “repeatedly ignores” the distinction between the committee’s functions and those of the government.

Of the R31-billion that government will spend on the World Cup, only R166-million (0,54%) will go to the committee, he says. This money is “ring-fenced” and will be spent only on specific projects.

Jordaan’s affidavit reveals that the City of Johannesburg and the Department of Arts and Culture donated R5-million each for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Confederations Cup and have each pledged R40-million for similar World Cup ceremonies.

The Sport and Recreation Department has already paid the committee R18-million for the training of volunteers for both tournaments and R2,8-million is still outstanding from the Arts Department for the final draw in Cape Town in December, and R5,8-million from North West province for a medical and team workshop.

The committee agreed with Fifa to a “detailed expense budget” of about $423-million, of which $20-million was paid to the committee as seed capital. Jordaan says money for the building of stadiums went to local authorities through the sport department.

Although the tournaments were granted “protected event” status on the understanding that the committee would comply with constitutional procurement principles, Jordaan regards these obligations as “voluntary”.

Dawes argues that it is unconstitutional for the committee to deny access to these records and asks the court to “lift the veil of secrecy”.

“It is entirely disproportionate and offensive to the constitutional values of openness and transparency for the records to be withheld, as the respondents would have this court do,” he says.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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