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'We will hound execs about SABC's R5.1bn irregular expenditure'

Politics
Parliament – Parliament's watchdog on public money on Wednesday roasted South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) acting executives for not being able to fully explain the R5.1 billion in irregular expenditure, and promised to hound the public broadcaster's leadership until that explanation is provided.

Briefing the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), acting SABC group chief executive James Aguma was time and again interrupted mid-sentence as he failed to satisfy MPs with his answers, or rather lack of answers, on who was responsible for the irregular expenditure as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R92.4 million.

A vocal Mnyami Booi, ANC MP, was the first to take on Aguma over the late submission of documents to the committee, saying: "We really don't need a lecture. Can you explain why the documents are late?"

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The SABC headquarters, with a Sentech tower in the background, at Auckland Park in Johannesburg. File photo: Cara Viereckl

He implied that SABC executives treated MPs like minors. "If you want children go to school."

The Economic Freedom Fighters' Ntombovuyo Mente was equally incensed, saying the presentation did not explain who was responsible for the billions in irregular spending.

"We are not going to get the information...we are denied this information deliberately so...and we are not going to entertain this."

Aguma tried in vain to provide answers. "

The reason the information is late is that we had to look at the quantum of information that we are trying to work through to disclose the opening balance of irregular expenditure for 2016," he said.

But MPs were not buying it, saying the irregular expenditure was identified as far back as 2014, asking why there have been no consequences for those responsible for the illegal spending.

Aguma went on the defensive again, telling MPs that an investigation into the irregular expenditure would be concluded by month end.

"We have been trying to deal with qualifications on irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure from the financial year 2014. Our plans are to finalise the investigation to get an unqualified audit report this financial year [ending March 31]."

Booi, however, refused to be pacified, going on the offensive again. He accused SABC executives of "hiding and burning papers" relating to the irregular expenditure to pull the wool over MPs eyes.

"Misleading in Parliament is a crime. Have you sent the Hawks on holiday?"

Booi suggested Scopa write to the Hawks requesting the specialised police unit do a forensic probe at the SABC. He added MPs would be relentless in their pursuit of the truth.

"Let's sit on their necks, let's not move...we will call them back every time," he said. "Let's go for them, let's not leave them."

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the SABC was not an island and should stop taking taxpayers for granted.

"The SABC must not live in an ivory tower over there and its untouchable and the finances are the exclusive domain of the leadership. As a TV licence payer I expect if I made a payment I expect that R1 to be taken seriously."

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