SABC financials, staff purges, deals scrutinised at inquiry

Cape Town - Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board went through the finer details of its first draft report of the SABC inquiry on Thursday.

The ad hoc committee had scrutinised 26 pages of the inquiry's working document clause-by-clause by 18:00 on its first day of deliberations. The document, which is the result of witness testimonies over 8 days in December and one in January, was leaked on social media on Tuesday.

Some of the sections of the document that were focused on by MPs on Thursday included those that dealt with:

- The suspicious deals between the SABC and other media houses;

- Irregular executive appointments and

- The role of the minister of communications in board decisions, specifically current Minister Faith Muthambi.

MPs said that forensic investigations needed to be done in both the SABC's contract with MultiChoice relating to the SABC's archives, and the deal with TNA Media regarding the airing of The New Age Breakfasts.

They also debated adding specific witness names to the documents. DA MP Phumzile van Damme requested that the report also list all the documents the SABC has still failed to provide to the committee.

ACDP MP Steve Swart, a qualified lawyer, said the SABC's financial records should receive a separate audit following damning evidence in the Auditor General's annual report as well as the AG's office's testimony of irregular spending.

Observations 'SA will be interested in'

Some of the key findings highlighted in the leaked working document include the following:

- The board failed to discharge its duties as stated in the Public Finance Management Act by failing to take effective and appropriate steps to prevent irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure of up to R5.1bn in 2016 alone;

- The SABC board made no meaningful intervention in, or at worst were unaware of, the intimidation and threats experienced by the "SABC 8";

- Muthambi failed to allay suspicions over the 2014 appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the SABC's permanent chief operating officer.

Part D of the working document is next to be scrutinised, and contains the prevalent observations and recommendations of the committee following witness testimonies.

Committee chairperson Vincent Smith described it as "the part South Africa is really interested in.".

Some of the topics will include: contradictory testimonies, the fitness of the board, the role of the shareholder, accountability and parliamentary oversight, among others.

Part D will be looked at on Friday.

Journalist criticised

Smith also condemned an ANN7 journalist just after the lunch break for "distributing false information" during Thursday's proceedings.

Earlier in the day the journalist had incorrectly tweeted that an MP claimed the working document "had been tampered with".

No MP made such a declaration.

Smith said the journalist must respect the work of the committee and desist from attempting to "derail" the proceedings.

The journalist later tweeted that the quote had been misheard, and the wrong assumption made.

IFP MP Narend Singh earlier requested the committee discuss how the document had been leaked, and what "missing clauses" can be added as it was still a work-in-progress.

Smith said the leak could not be considered a "full leak", as the process has been public and transparent from the start in any case.

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