Gugu Duda: ‘I’m a scapegoat’

2014-03-23 14:00

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Gugu Duda, an experienced chartered accountant, says she became unpopular the moment she tried to put checks and balances in place at the SABC.

The public broadcaster’s former chief financial officer, Gugu Duda, this week spoke frankly about the “deteriorating” and “unsustainable” situation at the SABC that led to her dismissal on Wednesday.

Duda arrived at work in March 2012 and ran the SABC’s finances for five months before being suspended.

She described reporting for work at the SABC, where acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng “ran the show”.

She said he barged into meetings, personally dispatched news teams and hijacked wage negotiations.

She became unpopular at once, she says, because she attempted to put checks and balances in place, especially around the hiring of service providers.

At the time, the SABC was in a financial crisis, relying on a R1.4?billion loan guarantee from government “while not earning as much revenue as it was spending”.

Motsoeneng, she says, was wasting money on news and increases for himself and his “generals”.

Motsoeneng’s boss, former chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo, was “a sleeping CEO” who let Motsoeneng act with impunity, even when she was made aware of his “highly irregular” increases, claims Duda.

The SABC’s Kaizer Kganyago rejected her allegations, calling them “sour grapes”.

Duda was this week found guilty of misconduct in a case before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

This had to do with the SABC’s R1?million cash payment to the notorious ICT Indaba as part of a barter deal.

Duda says she will be taking the ruling under review and questioned its legitimacy.

The Public Protector last month found Duda’s appointment at the SABC was “unlawful” and had been influenced by former communications minister Dina Pule and Motsoeneng.

Duda told City Press it was she who provided the Public Protector with some of the information that would find Motsoeneng guilty – in the same report – of misrepresenting his matric certificate, making the pay hikes and of being improperly appointed. Mokhobo was found guilty of “governance failure”.

Duda says she has been made a scapegoat. “The chairperson of the board has found a convenient means to fire me and protect Hlaudi over the Public Protector report … I don’t know how I was appointed. I gave my CV in for several positions in the department of communications. But if he is implicated for the same thing – my appointment – why is he not in trouble?”

A relaxed and confident Duda did not mince her words when she said: “I think it has been a known suspicion that certain people who are favoured highly by political strongholds within the ANC, like Hlaudi Motsoeneng, are going to be protected at everyone’s expense.”

She says the main reason she was shafted was because she insisted on new financial controls at the SABC.

“Some executives could request, review and approve their own transactions. There were no checks and balances?...?There were no terms of reference for deciding on bid evaluations and a lack of procurement guidelines.”

She says she clashed with Motsoeneng from day one. She describes a showdown in Mokhobo’s office where Motsoeneng reprimanded her for not reporting decisions to him.

Duda says she stood her ground as she reported to Mokhobo, but the CEO did not challenge Motsoeneng on the matter. “She’d just sulk in a corner,” Duda said.

“I made myself very unpopular with Mr Motsoeneng when I questioned the news budget. Three months into the year, they’d spent 45% of it. He was wasting resources by meddling in the newsroom. He’d call the senior news people and say: ‘Mchana [hey boy], you need to cover this or that,’ making them move from place to place.”

When she defied him on budget for a news trip, she says Motsoeneng “called me to scream at me late at night – he said: ‘Who do you think you are? You don’t own this money.’ I said no but I’m responsible for it. I was called arrogant and a young girl. But I’m 37 and an experienced chartered accountant.”

On another occasion, she says after agreeing on a wage increase budget, Motsoeneng “walked in and announced to the unions: ‘I’m not gonna lie to you, we’ve all agreed 8%.’ And I was shocked. That was not the agreement. Mr Motsoeneng was just wanting to make himself popular with the unions. He said: ‘I have done a good thing for you, guys. I spoke to the board and said they must give you 8%. It’s yours. There.’”

Mokhobo has repeatedly claimed Duda “misled” her into signing the SABC’s letter of commitment to the ICT Indaba. Duda denies this, saying Mokhobo gave her the go-ahead for the barter, which was initiated from Mokhobo’s office.

Contacted this week, Mokhobo said: “I don’t know what she hopes to achieve. The process was fair and open. If she’s bitter and running to the press with untruths, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

But Duda says she will fight to clear her name. “I’ve got nothing to lose because I’ve got nothing,” she said.

» SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago responds: "It is very strange that the allegation that are presented, allegedly from the the former CFO, surfaces just after her dismissal. This can just be sour grapes and the allegations are rejected with the contempt they deserve. The process of her disciplinary action, which started in 2012, was fair and the decision was even referred to the CCMA. She had an opportunity to state her case all the way.

"Her allegations will remain allegations. Just looking at them, one needs to remind her that finance is a support function that should support the core business and not the other way round.

"She has got all the right to take the matter for review."

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