SABC board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini, chief executive Madoda Mxakwe, deputy board chair Mathatha Tsedu, and chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon briefing MPs. PHOTO: Chantall Presence / ANA

PARLIAMENT - Banks were reluctant to assist the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) with a loan without a government guarantee, the state-owned entity's board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini told MPs on Wednesday.

Briefing Parliament's standing committee on public accounts on the irregular expenditure of R4.9 billion over a period of several years, the board said it was putting in place measures to stop this, recover some of the money, and ensure people are held accountable for their actions, specifically in supply chain management.

The broadcaster continues to bleed money, despite slight revenue increases due to a weak balance sheet, prompting it to start the process to retrench around 981 employees - a process currently before the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Makhathini said without a R3 billion injection they would approach "day zero" where the broadcaster would be "factually insolvent" by March.

"All we need is a government guarantee...," he said.

"Come March, we'll maybe collect roughly R300 million. We need R600 million a month..."

SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon said they were battling to meet their financial obligations and had to cut costs in key areas like buying content, which was key to improving audience figures.

"We typically start with [paying] salaries, then rent, water and electricity, then we have arrangements with bigger service providers where we enter with payment agreements...then we started to curtail our content," she said, adding that where the broadcaster generally pays R140 million a month for content, it spent less than half of that in November.

Chief executive Madoda Mxakwe defended the company's intention to retrench, saying it had no other alternative.

"Currently we have a very bloated structure, particularly at middle and senior management."

He added the SABC had 479 managers, which cost the broadcaster R630 million a year, while freelancers cost it R510 million a year.

- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Lindiz van Zilla