Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)
Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Government institutions owe SABC R57m in TV licences and advertising

By Samkelo Mtshali Time of article published Dec 20, 2020

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Johannesburg - The cash-strapped SABC is owed a whopping R57.1 million in unpaid television licences and advertising fees by government departments, municipalities and state-owned entities (SOEs).

This was revealed by Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams when she was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Phumzile van Damme.

Van Damme had enquired about the number of departments, municipalities and state-owned entities that owe money to the SABC.

She also wanted to know the names of the culprits as well as the total amount owed by each organ of the state and plans to recover the debt owed.

In her written response, Ndabeni-Abrahams said government departments owed money to SABC’s TV licences and advertising divisions.

“A total of 20 National departments have outstanding TV licence fees balances,” she said, adding that 126 provincial departments have outstanding licence fees.

“A total of 249 municipality accounts owe television licence fees. A total of 57 SOEs have outstanding TV licence fees on their accounts,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

The minister also said three national departments, 24 provincial departments, six municipalities and eight SOEs owed debt in advertising.

Ndabeni’s responses showed that R29.2m was owed in advertising sales with R4.5m owed by SOEs, R9.2m debt owed by provincial departments, R13.1m national departments and R2.3m by municipalities.

The Government Communications and Information Services (GCIS) owed almost a third of the debt in advertising sales while the Compensation Fund owed R3.7 and eThekwini Metro debt stood at R1.1m.

Of the R28.2m owed in outstanding payment of television licences, provincial departments led the pack with R18.6m followed by municipalities with R6.3m, national departments R1.6m and SOEs R1.5m.

The culprits include Auditor-General South Africa, South African Social Security Agency, Compensation Fund, GCIS as well as departments at national level and across the provinces.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the SABC continued to follow its collection processes to collect outstanding debts by communicating these balances to the departments, municipalities and SOEs.

“However, special additional campaigns commenced in the month of October with priority on SOEs. Intervention through the Group Chief Executive Officer’s communique is planned for distribution in the months to follow to all the departments and municipalities,” she said.

The turn of events comes in the wake of the beleaguered public broadcaster’s board putting on hold until the end of the year the retrenchment of about 400 employees following protests by SABC workers.

The SABC, which last month reported that it was under pressure to save R700 million in wages each year, said that it had spent R2,35 billion in salaries in the last financial year while it also posted R511 million in losses.

However, the public broadcaster said that 170 of the 400 employees would be re-employed in a new and restructured SABC.

Hannes du Buisson, president of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union, said that some jobs within the SABC could be saved if government departments, municipalities and SOEs could pay up their TV licences.

“We also believe that the government must set the example because they expect ordinary people to pay for their TV licences but if they don’t pay it themselves that is not a very good example that they’re setting.

“We urge those particular government departments to pay up their TV licences so that we possibly can at the SABC, but also get the SABC operational and have some cash injected into the SABC for it to properly operate,” Du Buisson said.

Political Bureau

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