SABC board failed financially, legally, morally - MPs

Cape Town – The SABC’s board had a "shaky" moral compass and had failed to protect journalists from intimidation, MPs on Parliament's SABC inquiry ad hoc committee said on Friday.

MPs were given 10 minutes each to say what they wanted mentioned in the committee's official draft report.

ANC MP Hlomane Chauke said the multiple resignations of board members showed that the board did not exercise due care, and that its members lacked independence and good judgement.

As a result, a number of board decisions were not made in the best interests of the public broadcaster.

ANC MP Juli Kilian said the board had failed to monitor and enforce compliance with its charter.

"I think that is a massive failure. Yes, the financial matters are also grave. But this is the public broadcaster."

She said there was evidence that only some board members were familiar with the Broadcasting Act.

IFP MP Narend Singh said witness testimonies had shown many incidents of legal, financial and human resource practices not having been followed.

ANC MP Fezeka Loliwe said the board had failed to create stability by constantly appointing executives in an acting capacity.

Muthambi, amendments, chief executives

DA MP Phumzile van Damme wanted to point out which legislation the board had violated, according to witness testimonies. Most pertinent to her were sections 50 and 51 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and sections 10 and 13 of the Broadcasting Act.

EFF MP Fana Mokoena wanted to stress how Communications Minister Faith Muthambi's amendment to the board's memorandum of incorporation affected the board's role to appoint executives.

Along with amendments to the SABC’s delegation of authority framework, it took power away from the board and made some of its choices obsolete.

He said the board showed a rebellious streak. He wanted to see an acknowledgement that the board had not merely failed to implement recommendations in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, but had also directly opposed these.

Mokoena said the board had failed to protect journalists from intimidation.

'Shaky moral compass'

NFP MP Nhlanhla Khubisa noted the board's non-compliance with the PFMA, after power was transferred from one board to another.

ANC MP Makhosi Khoza said the board was vulnerable to reputational risk. She said many board members had the necessary skills and experience, but a "shaky" moral compass.

Khoza wanted the committee’s report to reflect her concern that the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, was trying to "delete the powers of Parliament and replace those with the powers of the minister".

ACDP MP Steve Swart took issue with the board's inability to compile financial records that met international standards.

"Even the Auditor General's directors feel the internal accounting controls are inadequate. That is at the heart of the SABC's [financial] issues."

He said Parliament's portfolio committee on communications was complicit in these failures. Muthambi had pressured it into accepted her view that the Company's Act trumped the Broadcasting Act when removing three board members in 2015, he said.

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