Sport, Art and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday announced the forensic investigation would look into how officials overcommitted the R300m. Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Sport, Art and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday announced the forensic investigation would look into how officials overcommitted the R300m. Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Probe into R300m arts funding bungle

By Francesca Villette Time of article published Mar 30, 2021

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Cape Town - An investigation into the mismanagement of R300 million meant for creatives across the country is under way, with the National Arts Council’s (NAC) chief executive and chief financial officer so far being suspended.

Following protests and sit-ins at the NAC’s offices in Johannesburg with artists demanding answers regarding the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package, Sport, Art and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday announced the forensic investigation would look into how officials overcommitted the R300m, with some creatives getting nothing, and others receiving more than they had applied for.

The arts and culture industry is among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with scores of institutions having closed shop for good, and others having no way of recovery.

Mthethwa apologised to creatives on Monday, promising heads would roll.

“People overcommitted the money and funds that were given to them. Part of the R300m is still there, part of it has been disbursed and part of it is still being disbursed,” he said.

The department had received R665m from the National Treasury in September last year, of which R300m went to the NAC, R150m went to the National Film and Video Foundation and R60m went to the Sports Trust.

The balance went to sports compliance projects, heritage, presidential and economic projects, as well as arts and culture projects in the provinces.

The call for grants had opened in October last year, and at the start of 2021 a group of adjudicators complained about how the process was handled, and the complaints then landed with the new NAC council for attention.

The new council then went to the NAC management for answers on the disbursement process.

Mthethwa said the council did not receive straightforward answers from the NAC, and the story “kept on changing”.

“As a result the council took a decision on March 1 to halt the disbursement process until further legal advice. The council was not receiving assistance from the NAC management. They then took a decision to suspend the chief executive and the CFO on March 1.

“Subsequently they discovered that the budget as allocated was mismanaged by the NAC, mainly by way of overcommitment of available funds that were allocated to creative sector organisations by more than double the allocated amount in their possession,” Mthethwa said.

The department was also looking at getting additional grant funding, but has so far been unsuccessful with the National Treasury – the mismanagement playing a part in their rejection, Mthethwa said.

“I want to issue an unconditional apology to the sector for being let down by our entities, in this instance by the NAC, and in the process exposing the most vulnerable in our society.

“It’s vulnerable because it was the first one to shut down, to close shop,” Mthethwa said.

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