The SABC appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Communications this week to account for its annual results for the 2011/12 financial year. While the public broadcaster declared a net profit of over R343 million, the numbers didn’t tell the real story.
“This was achieved against a target of R225 million as set out according to the conditions of the Government Guarantee given to the SABC. The results represent a 7% increase in revenue, and a 2% reduction in expenditure in operating expenditure,” said spokesman Kaizer Kganyago in statement.
However, the news fell a bit flat after a major expose in the Sunday Times last weekend in which the newspaper revealed what it called “massive looting” of the public broadcaster’s coffers.
And the profit reported came at the expense of investment into programming. “Though the SABC posted a profit of R343-milliom, after making a R129-million loss last year, this appeared to be the result of slashing the amount it spent on buying film and programme rights from R1.7-billion to R1.3-billion,” the Sunday Times wrote.
Kganyago admitted that the SABC had not met targets laid out in its government guarantee delivered when it was given its most recent bailout. It had not reduced the number of personnel, and neither had it reconstituted its audit committee “where it was found to be ineffective”.
The SABC said its financial situation is “liquid” and that it had R1 billion in cash reserves.
Marian Shinn, the DA’s spokesperson on communications, says the minister is “deceiving” the public about the so-called success of its turnaround strategy. “Recently the Minister said she was satisfied with the SABC’s progress but this was either an attempt to gloss over the truth or she is hopelessly out of touch with what is actually happening in the corporation,” Shinn said after the Sunday Times story was published.
“The revelations also point to the failure of the acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, to exercise the calibre of management controls needed to stop the systemic rot at the SABC, despite glowing affirmations of his achievements by the SABC board,” she said.
Shinn said it “beggared belief” that the SABC board had given Motsoeneng oversight of news operations “when he clearly cannot manage the operational issues of the SABC”. Shinn speculated that the move “could indicate that he is being positioned to take over the CEO’s role from Lulama Mokhobo, who is in trouble with the board for having made an unauthorised payment of R1 million to the ICT Indaba, as well as approving R2 million worth of airtime to the event”.
Kate Skinner, activist and former co-ordinator of the NGO, SOS Coalition, said in an email to members, “The Sunday Times article is depressing because it points out that the savings that have been made at the SABC have been made by cutting back on programming – but the core mandate of the SABC is to broadcast programming! The buying of film and programming rights has been reduced from R1.7 billion to R1.3 billion! SABC salaries have continued to increase and they sit at R1.95 billion. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure continues…”