SABC's headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. File photo: Cara Viereckl

 

The SABC is still reeling from the financial crisis that forced it to borrow R1 billion against a government loan guarantee in 2009.

Although the loan had been settled at the end of September, group chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo said austerity measures introduced during the crisis had led to the public broadcaster bleeding critical skills.

Just 40 percent of managers between general management and executive management level had the qualifications and the skills to do their jobs, a skills audit had revealed.

This, in turn, contributed to some of the auditor-general’s findings in a damning audit report for 2012/13, for which the public broadcaster’s management and newly installed board were in Parliament this week to account.

The SABC’s annual report read like a “thriller”, said Cope MP Juli Kilian.

The DA’s Butch Steyn disagreed.

It was more like a horror, he contended. “You would certainly be seriously missing your fiduciary responsibilities if you don’t identify the weaknesses, face them head-on, stop trying to deny them and tackle them one after the other,” Kilian told the new board.

“There should be no holy cows in this operation moving forward. Please, this report is actually a thriller, it is really very worrying.”

Steyn said he wondered whether the financial statements in the annual report “are even worth the paper it’s written on”.

ANC MP Faith Muthambi asked how the broadcaster could justify huge bonuses paid to management, even as it regressed from two consecutive qualified audits to a disclaimer for the past financial year.

One executive had received a bonus of R1.41m in 2011 and total earnings of more than R2m, followed in 2012 by a bonus of R1.5m and total earnings of about R3m.

“And you come to 2013, he gets a bonus of R1.7m and the total is over R4m. I think he’s earning even more than the president of the country, and then I want to understand what is it this man is doing. Why are you paying these bonuses given the status of this disclaimer now and the qualified audit opinion with findings,” Muthambi asked.

Board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala said part of the problem was the management’s unhelpful attitude toward the A-G.

“When the auditor-general comes and requests information, employees just say ‘no, we don’t have this information, there have been so many interventions, these are irritating’, and they throw a tantrum.”

The board had asked the A-G’s office to be “ transparent… so we don’t sugar coat things”.

 

Mokhobo agreed the annual report was not something “anybody can be proud of”.

But she explained she had found the organisation in disarray when she was appointed last year. Many senior positions were filled in an acting capacity.

 

Acting chief financial officer Tian Olivier sketched a similar scenario in trying to explain why the SABC had been unable to provide records required by the A-G to complete his audit.

 

ANC MP Regina Lesoma said members of the portfolio committee on communications would continue to hope for change at the SABC, “because that’s what life is about”. - Pretoria News