The South African Broadcasting Corporation cannot account for over R1.58 billion worth of expenditure as it has no supporting documents to report how the money was spent. A further R106.3 million was spent irregularly and the auditor general can’t find evidence of a reported R913.8 million in television license fees.
These were some of the shock findings contained in the SABC’s 2102/2013 annual report that was tabled in parliament on Tuesday. The AG, Terence Nombembe, gave it a ‘disclaimer of opinion’ as a result of what he called “significant matters”.
The public broadcaster also failed to meets its performance targets, CEO Lulama Mokhobo confirmed. Sponsorships were 50% (R368 million) lower; sale content was 66% (R62 million) lower; and advertising revenue was 4% (R190 million) below budget.
What’s more, the AG said financial statements submitted did not adhere to reporting standards, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) or the Companies Act and that the SABC hadn’t reviewed its internal audit function, had an unstable leadership and said the corpporation’s accounting authority did not exercise its oversight responsibility effectively.
The opposition Democratic Alliance accused the SABC of financial mismanagement and poor performance and called on newly-appointed communications minister, Yunus Carrim, to “report on what steps he will be taking to improve our public broadcaster.
“The DA will also propose that the minister investigate the legality of the letter, from previous board chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane, appointing acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, with a view to removing him from this post. Under Motsoeneng’s tenure the management, staffing, financial and editorial crises have escalated rather than improved,” said communications spokeswoman, Marian Shinn.
Carrim has acknowledged the task that lies ahead. He has promised his department will “exercise far more strategic oversight over the SABC. A turnaround will not happen overnight. But if all the relevant parties cooperate, there will certainly be improvements over time”, he said. To this end, he has formed a joint task team comprising representatives from the treasury, auditor-general and department of communications to look at the long-term financial viability of the SABC.
Shinn is not convinced. “For the past six years, the SABC has lurched from crisis to crisis with no sight in end. The time for action is now.”
The Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa) has slammed the SABC, accusing the powers at the top of pushing ahead with “vanity projects” at the expense of the public broadcaster’s mandate.
“The Auditor General’s qualified opinion on the SABC’ financial shambles may be traced directly to ‘vanity-projects’ facilitated by an interfering political head, an indebted and very weak board, narcissistic executives and petrified staff thriving in an environment where the correct and prudent use of available management tools, systems, procedures and policies was actively discouraged,” said general secretary Tuwani Gumani.
“The SABC has a broad mandate to accommodate more than just party-political opinion or the voice of capital and its failure to strike a meaningful balance in this regard seems to be the heart of its problems. The voices of citizens including those of SABC staff must be stronger.
“Until professionals, passionate broadcasters and support staff are prioritized as essential intellectual and human capital there will be no progress. The SABC will successfully complete its meltdown in a space of a few months while the focus is on replacing political heads, board members and executives,” he said.
Shinn agrees. The SABC has a dire need for effective leadership and a capable board to become this. Minister Yunus Carrim must roll up his sleeves and steer the SABC into calm waters”.