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Johannesburg - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is eager to begin its probe into the financial irregularities uncovered by Parliament’s ad hoc committee that investigated the affairs of the SABC.

The government’s investigative body says it’s ready to walk to President Jacob Zuma’s office to have the proclamation signed so it can start with forensic investigations.

The SIU, which institutes civil action to recover public funds, has the powers to subpoena, search, seize and interrogate witnesses under oath.

On Monday, the SIU and the interim board of the SABC, appointed in March for 6 months, will meet to discuss the proposed proclamation that will authorise the multi-pronged investigations into the public broadcaster.

The SABC interim board recently decided to enlist the SIU to undertake a forensic investigation into its affairs, in line with recommendations of the committee.

“We met with the interim board and they wrote me a letter that says the board resolved to engage the services of the SIU,” SIU head Andy Mothibi said.

Mothibi said this when he and his team briefed the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Thursday.

In its report, the ad hoc committee recommended the interim SABC board should ensure a comprehensive progress report for all pending investigations, including those related to the SABC’s financial sustainability, is compiled and submitted to Parliament. It also said the findings, recommendations and remedial action of already-concluded investigations by the public protector, SIU, National Treasury, auditor-general and others were considered and implemented within the shortest possible time frames.

The SABC group incurred expenditure in contravention with supply chain management (SCM) requirements for both the current and prior years that were not included in irregular expenditure notes. The understatement amounted to R35.1-million.

The SABC did not have supporting documents in place to identify irregular expenditure. Supporting documents to verify the disclosed irregular expenditure of R141.4m to test these for compliance with SCM regulations were not provided for audit purposes.

Irregular expenditure incurred in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2014, the SABC incurred irregular expenditure totalling R990.7m; R2.4-billion was incurred in previous years, but discovered only in 2014, resulting to a cumulative figure of R3.4bn.

An amount of R441.2m was incurred in 2016. In addition to this, R322.3m was incurred in previous periods, but only identified in 2016, resulting in the escalation of irregular expenditure to R5.1bn.

The ad hoc committee had found that R25.7m of the irregular expenditure was incurred in this current financial year due to contraventions of supply chain management legislation.

“The auditor-general further noted the SABC has not fully implemented its SCM policy,” the report reads.

It also found R34.7m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure was incurred in 2016 and R92.5-million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure awaited condonation.

The ad hoc committee had also recommended the investigation into irregular appointments, suspicious contracts, salary increments and performance bonuses paid at the SABC.

Mothibi told parliamentarians their meeting with the SABC board is scheduled for Monday.

“We are meeting them on Monday to work out how to assist them. Bear in mind they are in place for six months (so) this is really going to be a test case to see how speedily we turn around our investigation starting from the proclamation,” he said.

“I have engaged Justice (Department), and I have engaged the Presidency to say we are meeting the SABC on Monday. We will put together a proclamation motivation. If need be we will walk through the corridors of Justice (Department) and the Presidency to get the proclamation signed,” Mothibi said.

SABC interim board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama could not be reached for comment. SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago would not be drawn into commenting on the matter and referred questions to parliament.

“This is about us. We are the subject,” Kganyago said. “It is Parliament and SIU that are dealing with us. It is not my area of work to comment,” he said.

Sunday Independent