The SABC's acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, remains in his position despite having been removed by the previous board. File photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Johanensburg - Hlaudi Motsoeneng, acting chief operating officer of the debt-crippled SABC, has ordered that millions of rand be spent converting surplus freelancers into full-time staff.

The Star can reveal that Motsoeneng issued the “instruction” through an internal memo on November 7, despite protests by the public broadcaster’s acting chief financial officer (CFO), Tian Olivier, and others.

In fact, Motsoeneng warned there would be “consequences” if the management and human resources failed to find the budget and implement the conversion during the 2012/2013 financial year.

According to internal memoranda seen by The Star, the decision means all permanent technical employees will be paid a full month’s salary, but be able to work only for three weeks a month because of the new oversupply of staff.

The conversion will cost millions in unbudgeted expenses to cover the erstwhile freelancers’ new human resources benefits.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has publicly called on the SABC to reduce its staffing complement and cut costs as it continues to service the R1 billion bailout granted by a private bank in 2009, after the Treasury signed sureties to save the SABC from its R800 million deficit.

Some managers have accused Motsoeneng of wasteful expenditure and flouting the Public Finance Management Act, according to internal correspondence.

According to an internal memo, the cost and other implications are:

* R5.7 million to convert 22 video editors into permanent staff members at scale 404.

* Staff members will now work a combined 324 hours less a month.

* R729 000 will be needed to pay six freelancers who would do the job usually done by the three video editors earmarked for the 24-Hour News Channel.

* R200 000 extra will be required to pay salaries between December 2012 and March.

* Employees will work a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 32 hours a week, even though the law required them to work a minimum 40 hours a week.

Acting SABC group executive for human capital services Keobokile Mosweu has denied the figures mentioned in the memo.

“The audit that we are conducting will give us the figure. It will give us the financial impact, not the R5 million that you have referred to because the figure is premature,” said Mosweu.

Motsoeneng and Olivier confirmed his instruction during an interview with The Star at the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters this week.

However, they denied that the conversion would negatively affect the SABC’s financial positions and amounted to wasteful expenditure. They said they were merely doing what the Basic Conditions of Employment Act required of them.

Olivier also confirmed that he had refused to approve the conversion, but denied that he had said the freelancers were surplus to requirement.

“People came to me after this memo of the 8th and said ‘We need to employ’. I said ‘Whoa! Whoa!’.

“I haven’t seen the request (for the posts). I have not approved anything, it is a fact, because they didn’t come to me with it yet. And in terms of the delegation of authority, any new post that does not have a budget yet must be approved by the CFO,” Olivier said.

Motsoeneng defended his decision, saying it was necessary to end the “abuse” of freelancers, comply with the law and retain skills. He said he had responded to complaints and concerns from the affected freelancers.

Motsoeneng conceded that Olivier had raised “red flags”. However, he said he was forging ahead to ensure the SABC’s sustainability.

The Star