SABC is accountable to no one

2014-10-28 13:45

In his presentation to Parliament on Wednesday, the SABC’s acting CFO, James Aguma, declared irregular expenditure of R3.3?billion – that is money lost and unaccounted for.

Almost as a nod to the new and improved SABC financial acumen, he further suggested that only R990?million had been lost this year; that this was a great improvement on the R1.36?billion lost in the past financial year and the R1?billion in the year before that.

An amount of R3.3?billion has been lost, but yet the SABC laments government’s abject failure to fund its public mandate.

The money has been lost and it does not appear that the SABC will be able to commission new local content to incentivise mass public take-up of the set-top box decoders required to watch TV in the digital age.

The money is lost and unaccounted for, but an ordinary citizen has to fork out R265 for a TV licence fee because “it’s the right thing to do”.

Linked to the SABC’s track record of lost money is its long-standing tradition of golden handshakes and excessive payouts to executives and accounting officers whose professional conduct Aguma and the board admit was deficient.

In a fresh and bold display of public accountability, Ronnie Lubisi, the chairperson of the SABC board’s audit committee, lamented the fact that the “SABC is a public broadcaster and [it had] to justify these things to the public.”

These are business decisions after all. Seemingly they have nothing to do with us. We dutifully pay the SABC and rely on it for our information needs.

The impunity with which the board and high-ranking SABC officials conduct themselves came to a head with SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala’s frustration at the inquiry into allegations of misconduct against her.

Instead of simply answering whether she had perjured herself in Parliament by fraudulently misrepresenting her qualifications as alleged, she obstinately refused to set the record straight.

Her disregard for accountability extends not only to her failure to produce her qualifications, but also to frustrating Parliament’s attempts to ascertain the truth by seeking to interdict its inquiry.

Executives and directors at the SABC have been allowed to conduct themselves with impunity for far too long. As with every board that sat at the SABC since it was bled dry in 2007, this one simply chooses to blame previous incumbents.

When will the SABC board take responsibility for its failings?

Phamodi and Hamukoma work for the Support Public Broadcasting Coalition

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