It is a year today since Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela released the results of her investigation into mismanagement at the SABC. Have any of her recommendations been taken on board by the public broadcaster? Ed Herbst takes a look.
“All the above findings are symptomatic of pathological corporate governance deficiencies at the SABC, including failure by the SABC board to provide strategic oversight to the national broadcaster. The board was dysfunctional and on its watch, allowed (Dr Ben) Ngubane to effectively perform the function of an executive chairperson by authorising numerous salary increments for Motsoeneng… Mr Motsoeneng has been allowed by successive boards to operate above the law, undermining the GCEO among others, and causing the staff, particularly in the human resources and financial departments to engage in unlawful conduct.” – Thuli Madonsela, When Governance and Ethics Fail 17/2/2014
It was a year ago today that Madonsela produced her When Governance and Ethics Fail report after many months of investigating the allegations of unlawful conduct at the SABC and in particular the role in this regard of the controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
There is no evidence to suggest that the SABC has done anything at all to implement the steps that Ms Madonsela called for a year ago:
The SABC Board to ensure that:
1) All monies are recovered which were irregularly spent through unlawful and improper actions from the appropriate persons.
2) Takes appropriate disciplinary action against the following:
- Mr Motsoeneng for his dishonesty relating to the misrepresentation of his qualifications, abuse of power and improper conduct in the appointments and salary increments of Ms Sully Motsweni, and for his role in the purging of senior staff members resulting in numerous labour disputes and settlement awards against the SABC;
- Ms Lulama Mokhobo, the outgoing GCEO for her improper conduct in the approval of the salary increment of Mr Motsoeneng;
- To ensure that any fruitless and wasteful expenditure that had been incurred as a result of irregular salary increments to Mr Motsoeneng, Ms Motsweni, Ms Khumalo and the freelancers, is recovered from the appropriate persons;
- To ensure that in future there is strict and collective responsibility by the SABC Board members through working as a collective and not against each other, in compliance with the relevant legislation, policies and prescripts that govern the National Broadcaster; and
- To issue a public apology to Ms P Ntombela-Nzimande, Ms C Mampane and all its former employees who had suffered prejudice due to the SABC management and Board’s maladministration involving failure to handle the administration of its affairs in accordance with the laws, corporate policies and principles of corporate governance.
- (To review all their HR processes pertaining to creation of new posts, appointments and salary scales and progressions.
This is hardly surprising because the ANC, in the context of Nkandla, has worked relentlessly and remorselessly to undermine the authority of Madonsela’s office and, in this regard, the SABC board can simply take its cue from the Presidency.
Speaking at the Daily Maverick Gathering in Johannesburg in November 2012, Cosatu general secretary Zwelizima Vavi said that in order for the ANC to regain its identity it needed to move away from being a party of “Absolutely No Consequences”.
The failure of the SABC board and the SABC management to implement the recommendations that Madonsela made a year ago shows that a) Vavi was right and b) that Luthuli House has paid him no heed.
The extraordinary degree to which Auckland Park justifiably consider themselves to be untouchable can be deduced from their response to a 2010 ban by the ANC Cabinet on those with access to the public purse buying Soccer World Cup tickets.
Knowing that there was absolutely nothing that the ANC would do to enforce this ban and that there would be Absolutely No Consequences if they ignored it, the SABC raised a suppurating middle finger to the tax-paying public and blew a cool R3.3 million on tickets.
However the tide might be turning, however gently and slowly.
There was apparently strong resistance within the ANC to a suggestion that former SABC board chairman Dr Ben Ngubane be appointed as chairman of Eskom. Given the truly frightening position the country finds itself in as regards to imminent power failure that is understandable – but he made it onto the board anyhow, although not as chairman.
In the context of the SABC, a typical example of why the ANC’s deployed cadres justifiably feel immune from the consequences of playing fast and loose with public funds can be gathered from the statement issued in October 2011 by the broadcasting union BEMAWU about Ngubane’s role in sending two staff members on a “study trip” to England costing almost half a million rand. It came to public attention because prostitutes were apparently patronised but not paid.
The story first hit the headlines a month earlier in when it was reported that two SABC officials had been arrested in this connection:
The two men were reportedly arrested after they could not pay prostitutes the full amount agreed upon.
After police arrested the two men, who have not been named, a SABC board member managed to get them off the hook and deported to South Africa. (my emphasis)
According to The Sowetan, the two officials received a R400 000 allowance from the SABC for their trip, which they spent in clubs and restaurants. How the trip and the huge allowance was approved is being investigated, according to a source.
If the subsequent statement by BEMAWU president Hannes du Buisson was not true and not in the public interest then it would have been grossly defamatory. Du Buisson called for Ngubane’s resignation after accusing him of blatantly lying to the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications. The fact that Ngubane never took action against Du Buisson would seem to indicate that he was not prepared to go into the witness box and testify under oath to rebut the union man’s accusations. And if any attempt was ever made to recover the money spent in this nefarious endeavour, the public has not been kept informed. What is even more disturbing is that the portfolio committee seems not to have followed up on Du Buisson’s accusation
The day after Madonsela released her Motsoeneng report,18 February last year, the SIU tabled in parliament the conclusions it had reached in an investigation into SABC corruption and wasteful expenditure which started in 2005 and ended in 2009.
A year later, nothing further has been heard.
That’s because, although the SIU recommended the prosecution of some very high profile people and some whose connections extend into the heart of Luthuli House, the NPA has, predictably, declined to prosecute.
The ANC has acknowledged for years in position papers and in countless political speeches that it is beset by pervasive corruption.
During his SONA speech last week, President Jacob Zuma again referred to the “scourge” of corruption.
A justifiably cynical public will see the SABC as an acid test of the ANC’s commitment in this regard.
If 2015 comes and goes with Hlaudi Motsoeneng still holding sway in Auckland Park, then both the Public Protector and the public at large will have to finally acknowledge what has long been obvious – the African National Congress remains a party of Absolutely No Consequences.
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