File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - The SABC has spent almost R2 million on the recruitment process of three top executives, and the corporation is still counting the cost.

And as the hunt for the senior executives drags on, the SABC faces the risk of having “good and carefully selected candidates” withdrawing their applications. Crucially, the banks have indicated their reluctance to finance the public broadcaster, citing instability because the positions of group CEO (GCEO), chief operations officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO) are being occupied on a temporary basis.

This is revealed in correspondences between the SABC board members and an affidavit responding to Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s legal bid appealing the Pretoria High Court’s ruling limiting her powers in the appointment of these executives.

The documents paint a picture of a board desperate to fill the three positions to defray costs and stop the SABC sliding further into financial crisis.

“I really don’t think we need to mention that we’ve spent R1.8m on recruitment in this affidavit, which is a public document and may divert attention from the real issues,” wrote one board member, in correspondences in which amendments to the affidavit were being discussed.

The board has shortlisted and interviewed candidates for the GCEO and COO positions, and is screening candidates. It is yet to advertise the CFO position - which could see the SABC incurring further costs.

“The corporation is in the process of appointing service providers that will assist with the recruitment process (for the CFO position), hence clarity on the (court) judgment is important in order for the recruitment process to be in line with the law,” wrote the board member.

“To date, the SABC has spent R1824 411.98 on recruitment of these two positions (of the GCEO and COO), a situation which is undesirable given the financial status of the corporation."

The fact that these positions are occupied by acting directors has “a ripple effect on the SABC”, and compromises the effective functioning of the SABC, the board noted.

“This uncertain and transitory state of SABC management threatens its legitimacy, undermines the organisation’s stability and hampers the continuity of its operations,” the affidavit reads.

A report by the auditor-general showed that the SABC received an adverse audit opinion from recording a staggering loss of R1.1bn in the 2016/17 financial year, a huge spike from the R593m in the previous year. The AG has warned that the public broadcaster was commercially insolvent.

The SABC is awaiting feedback from the Treasury on the R3bn guarantee.

In the papers, the board raises its grave concern about the dire financial crisis the SABC is in, but also reveals a reluctance by financial institutions to agree to a loan.

“Importantly, the SABC is currently in a financial crisis... The SABC’s management has therefore commenced negotiations with financial institutions pending the approval of a government guarantee by Treasury.

“During these preliminary discussions, the banks have raised concerns about the SABC’s management instability, given that all senior executive positions are being held by persons in an acting capacity.

"The lack of certainty in executive leadership therefore poses an imminent risk to the functioning of the corporation.”

In October, Judge Elias Motojane delivered a groundbreaking ruling giving the SABC board powers in the appointment and disciplining of directors occupying the three top three executive without the ministerial powers.

Saturday Star