SABC ignored Public Protector's remedial actions - Mkhwebane

2016-12-07 22:24
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Leon Sadiki

Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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Cape Town - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says the SABC ignored six of her predecessor's eight remedial actions following findings against the public broadcaster in a 2014 report.

Mkhwebane was addressing Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board on Wednesday.

She said the SABC board tried to justify the broadcaster's shortcomings highlighted by her predecessor Advocate Thuli Madonsela in her report When Governance and Ethics Fail.

"The SABC failed to inform the Public Protector of their compliance with the findings and the implementation of the remedial actions, which the board had agreed to, despite specific timelines in the report," she told MPs.

Included in Madonsela's findings was that disciplinary proceedings be instituted against then chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng who was found to have committed fraud on his CV by claiming he had a matric certificate.

The SABC board chose to launch its own "inquiry" into Motsoeneng's appointment, in which it largely justified his appointment.

The Public Protector said her office felt that the SABC board had defied all the remedial actions.

Board 'didn't know' powers were binding

Mkhwebane also said the reason the SABC did not implement Madonsela's remedial actions was because the board did not know her findings were binding.

She said the SABC board only took Madonsela's report on judicial review 25 months later, in May 2016.

Then COO Motsoeneng only took it on review following the Constitutional Court's Nkandla judgment in March on the financial liability of President Jacob Zuma for upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, where the Public Protector's powers were defined, she said.

She said Motsoeneng did not know that the findings were binding in the 25 months preceding the judgment.

MPs questioned if the statute for a review had not lapsed by that point.

The office of the Public Protector also struggled to follow up on its recommendations, as it was underfunded.

Mkhwebane said her office will soon file a supplementary affidavit in response to the SABC's decision to take the report on review.

'No performance management at SABC'

The Auditor General's office was first to present before the ad hoc committee on Wednesday.

Alice Muller, corporate executive in the AG's office, described a worrying state of affairs at the broadcaster following its last audit in 2015/16.

The SABC hired private consultants to deal with complex licensing matters, which was not necessarily a problem, she said.

"If the internal controls environment does not strengthen though, as soon as those consultants leave, there is a risk of deterioration."

Muller said the SABC has not been able to separate financial statements for their public broadcasting interests and commercial interests, which made auditing difficult.

It has also not been able to set up infrastructure for a proposed archive, and struggled to receive documents when investigating fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure.

She said R141m worth of irregular expenditure could not be audited in the last financial year because documents could not be provided.

The AG's office was also concerned that there were no sufficient performance management tools at the SABC.

Icasa laying criminal charges

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) also presented before the ad hoc committee on Wednesday.

Icasa revealed it had laid criminal charges against the SABC on November 29 for failing to adhere to a ruling it made ordering the withdrawal of the SABC's "protest policy".

The broadcaster appeared to have reneged on its agreement to abide by the July 11 order to withdraw its decision not to air footage of violent protests, Icasa representative Nomvuyiso Batyi told MPs.

Batyi said the SABC never provided any proof of its withdrawal of the policy, despite eventually agreeing to abide by Icasa's order on July 20.

"As you can imagine, the authority was faced with a dilemma, that here is an entity that advised it would abide by its decision," she told MPs.

"But later on, we were informed the SABC has never actually canned any programming."

Batyi also revealed that Icasa had not approved the SABC's "90-10" local content policy.

Motsoeneng, who is now the chief executive of corporate affairs, previously stated he had made the 90-10 decision in 10 minutes during an executive meeting.

The committee will sit again on Thursday, where it will interview former board members Vuyo Mavuso, Lulama Mokhobo and Ronny Lubisi, and the last remaining board member Mbulaheni Maguvhe.

Read more on:    public protector  |  sabc  |  hlaudi motsoeneng  |  busisiwe mkhwebane  |  media

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