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The SABC board is investigating its group chief executive Lulama Mokhobo and chief financial officer Gugu Duda for allegedly authorising the spending of R3 million on the controversial ICT indaba, organised by the Communications Department.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that the board has appointed its deputy chairman Thami ka Plaatjie to investigate Mokhobo and Duda for making the “donation” without the board’s approval even though the amount is within their authorised spending limit.
However, two board members said the board was incensed by the donation.
They confirmed that an investigation against the two was under way and might be concluded before the end of this week.
“The donation did not have board approval. We are doing our best to correct the situation and to get the SABC on a good financial footing. We don’t know why the CEO and the CFO did this,” a board member said on condition of anonymity.
The two board members could not be identified because the SABC has a strict communications policy which allows only designated officials to speak to the media.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago - speaking for the CEO and CFO - confirmed the financial contribution to the ICT indaba.
He however said the broadcaster paid a R1m sponsorship fee in exchange for exposure, an exhibition stand and exclusive content coverage, among other things.
“The remaining R2m was trade exchange. This is the same model that we use for other events and many other awards. The SABC, like any other organisation, has the right to market itself,” Kganyago said.
He said Mokhobo and Duda did not have to seek board approval for sponsoring the event because this was permitted in terms of the SABC delegation of authority.
“Amounts less than R15 million do not need the approval of the board,” he said.
He said board members, SABC staff - from technology, marketing, radio and television - including Mokhobo and Duda attended the event.
“The money was used to secure us exposure, an exhibition stand, exclusive content coverage and accommodation and meals for some of our officials for the duration of the conference. The amount of content that we gathered at the conference could have by far exceeded the sponsorship amount.
“The kind of international exposure that our technology team got was so great and it would have cost us much more if we were to take them around the world to get it,” Kganyago said.
The SABC is the second state-owned institution after Telkom to donate money to the ICT indaba, which was held in Cape Town in June. Interestingly, Communications Minister Dina Pule - who represents the shareholder - oversees both the SABC and Telkom.
Last month, the Sunday Times alleged that Pule, her partner Phosane Mngqibisa and former Generations actress Carol Bouwer handled R36m from sponsors, raising questions about a conflict of interests.
The newspaper reported that the minister lobbied Vodacom, MTN and Telkom to provide R25.7m in sponsorship for the event, which Bouwer organised through her company Carol Bouwer Productions.
The communications department donated R10.5m to the event.
Telkom donated R5.7m to the indaba while Vodacom gave R5m. MTN donated R15m. The SABC has made the donation amid tough financial conditions.
In 2009, the cash-strapped SABC got a R1.47 billion bailout from the government after it reported a R910m loss in the same year and the government gave the loan under strict conditions.
In terms of the government guarantee, the two, according to the board member, have to inform the board when spending an amount in the region of R3m.
Part of Mokhobo’s job requirement at the SABC is to design a turnaround strategy which would see the public broadcaster contain spending while clawing its way back to profitability.
However, the two board members felt this donation had set their work back. - Sunday Independent