Gupta New Age breakfasts cost SABC R20m
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Johannesburg - The SABC has incurred costs totalling R20 million towards the broadcasting of the controversial business breakfasts of Gupta-owned company and competitor, The New Age (TNA).
Briefing the communications portfolio committee on Tuesday, interim board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said the expenditure came to light despite SABC officials having previously told Parliament they did not spend money on the TNA breakfasts.
“We were initially advised that it did not cost us anything, but we went to quantify. It actually cost us R20 m to run these breakfasts,” Kweyama said.
“TNA received the revenue and we have not.”
The revelation comes a week after Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo revealed that her department spent nearly R1 million on the business briefing in May last year during the tenure of her predecessor, Faith Muthambi.
This also vindicates claims made by former SABC journalist Vuyo Mvoko, who gave evidence to an ad hoc committee that SABC resources were diverted to fund the TNA breakfasts and that the public broadcaster did not generate any revenue from the briefings.
These claims were disputed by former board chairperson Ben Ngubane, who said the breakfasts made good business sense and were at no cost to the SABC – a move that prompted a recommendation to identify those who lied during the inquiry.
On Tuesday, Kweyama also said the interim board had heard there was a time when there was an offer to share profits between the SABC and TNA, but that was apparently declined.
Committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana reacted with shock that the SABC had incurred expenditure for the TNA breakfasts.
“We have been told, as this committee, it is not costing a cent, now it’s R20m. The person responsible for communicating that is the acting group CEO (James Aguma),” Maxegwana said on Tuesday.
“He has been lying to the committee all the time. Surely all those issues will form part when you deal with that matter,” he said.
Kweyama also told the parliamentarians that the TNA contract had been cancelled. “Even though the contract still has 11 months to run, we felt reputationally for the SABC it was not good.”
She said the TNA breakfast that took place last Friday was the last.
The contract with TNA is among others that have been reviewed and referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for investigation based on recommendations by the ad hoc committee.
“A list of contracts that need to be looked at has been handed over to the SIU,” Kweyama said.
The contract of Lorna Vision for collection of television licences is among the implicated contracts.
Kweyama said Lorna Vision had been advised that the contract would not be renewed, but the company has taken the SABC to court.
It is demanding R19m, and the public broadcaster is opposing the application, board member Krish Naidoo said.
He said licence fee collection was outsourced despite the SABC having a fully fledged department of 164 employees.
Naidoo said Lorna Vision had used SABC staff and resources to collect licence fees.
“The amount paid was R100m over a period of time. We think there was no basis,” he said, adding that public finance laws made the executive liable for unnecessary contracts.