SABC board grilled

SABC office INLSA SABC head office in Auckland park West of Johannesburg.Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

It took two years for the SABC to act on allegations of maladministration first reported by staff in 2009.

Members of Parliament’s communications oversight committee wanted to know on Wednesday why, despite the allegations being raised with the SABC board in 2009, nothing appeared to have been done until the end of last year.

The board appeared before the committee to present pro-gress on dealing with issues raised by the auditor-general after an investigation into financial chaos at the SABC.

“Someone must take responsibility, because nothing was really done between 2009 and 2011,” said DA MP Butch Steyn.

Committee chairman Eric Kholwane said Parliament was interested in finding out what the board had been doing during the time in which it claimed to be “attending to it”.

Cope MP Juli Kilian said she was disappointed it had taken so long for the board to take action and urged the board not to relax as it had not fully turned the organisation around.

SABC board member Cedric Gina said one of the main causes for the delay had been the leadership at the time.

At times when the board had tried to make headway on the matter, the former chief operating officer, Charlotte Mampane, had held backprogress.

It was only after the board had asked her to step down that it started to make progress.

The SABC, which has asked to renegotiate the terms of a R1.47 billion loan guarantee granted by the government three years ago, made two advance payments of R8.6 million and R10.9m to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for the first two phases of its investigation at the broadcaster, following the auditor-general’s probe.

These investigations had not been completed.

Sully Motsweni, the head of compliance and monitoring, and chairwoman of the task team, explained that when the unit had been asked to investigate, it had been overwhelmed with other investigations.

It had made a special request for a payment in advance in order to contract more staff.

Motsweni said there was disappointment because some of the staff contracted to the unit were members of the SABC investigative unit, defeating the purpose of an investigation by an external party.

They had raised the matter with the SIU and were deliberating on how to handle it.

The SIU had retrieved R23 000 for the abuse of petrol cards issued in 2008 and R180 000 for travel expenses to the Beijing Olympics by one of the former executive members, said Motsweni.

However he said the team could not state exactly how much the unit was expected to recover as this was still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, the DA called for the privatisation of the SABC as the documents presented to the committee stated that the “root causes of the findings are still prevalent”.

DA MP Marian Shinn said that dialogue about privatisation had to start soon in order to “prevent public funds being plundered yet again to bail out the SABC, which continues to be poisoned by people who see the corporation as a cash cow”.

Board member Suzanne Vos acknowledged the job was not yet done.

However, the deputy chairman of the board, Thami ka Plaatjie, said they were making progress and there was a “new willingness on the part of the board” to implement change in the SABC.

“We are willing and committed to make a difference,” he said, urging MPs to bear with the board.


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