AG, Public Protector probe arts council as questions raised after clean audit

Freddie Nyathela, president of the South African Roadies Association. Picture: Herman Verwey
Freddie Nyathela, president of the South African Roadies Association. Picture: Herman Verwey

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has been asked to investigate his colleagues for alleged shoddy work done, which may have resulted in the awarding of a clean audit to the National Arts Council (NAC) in the 2017/18 financial year.

As a result, the NAC celebrated a third consecutive clean audit – unqualified audit outcome with no findings – in the financial year ending on March 31 last year.

This was despite investigators hired by the department of arts and culture finding a questionable expired projects and surplus policy at the NAC, which was used to disperse funds.

The controversial policy was approved by the NAC in 2015.

City Press has seen a report prepared by the Business Innovations Group, which was hired by the department to investigate allegations of misconduct by NAC senior management into the management’s failure to award a grant to SA Roadies Association (Sara), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement and development of technical and production skills and knowledge among the youth.

The report said the policy, which was approved by the audit and risk committee and the NAC executive committee, appeared to not be in line with National Treasury and the Public Finance Management Act.

“Further, this policy appears to be unfair and uncompetitive,” the report said.

According to a report by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, a non-governmental organisation that records parliamentary proceedings, the NAC received clean audits in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 financial years, compared with a qualified audit recorded in the 2013/14 financial year.

City Press learnt last week that Sara filed a complaint with Makwetu’s office in August last year, questioning how his Johannesburg office missed picking up alleged irregular funds that were dispersed by the NAC using the policy.

Sara president Freddie Nyathela confirmed to City Press that the complaint was filed because the NAC allegedly used the policy as a scheme to loot funds.

He alleged that the policy enabled NAC staff to make proposals to fund projects among themselves.

“NAC applies to NAC for [funding] friends and cabals,” Nyathela said.

The NAC had not responded to questions at the time of writing.

Nyathela said Makwetu’s office had been delaying to resolve their complaint.

Spokesperson for Makwetu’s office Africa Boso confirmed that a complaint was received from Sara.

“We have already responded to the writer, advising them that we are currently assessing the request using our standard procedures for dealing with such requests and will respond directly to them when our assessment is complete. It is therefore premature to respond to the rest of your questions at this stage,” Boso said.

City Press has seen emails between Sara and staff in Makwetu’s office, in which the association raised concerns about delays.

In an email dated June 25, Aletta van Tromp, investigations business executive in Makwetu’s office, said following careful assessment of the request to perform an investigation they had recommended that Makwetu not conduct a stand-alone investigation.

“The matters that fall within the mandate of the Auditor-General can be addressed as part of the 2018/19 regulatory audit. We are awaiting approval of the above recommendation by the Auditor-General and following this a detailed response will be issued,” Van Tromp said.

City Press understands that Sara has also reported the matter to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

According to an email dated June 11, sent to Nyathela by chief operations officer in Mkhwebane’s office Basani Baloyi, the matter was receiving attention.

“During our meeting on March 29 2019, an undertaking was made that the report on the investigation of the NAC would be released by May 30 2019. However, it has since transpired that the investigating team has indicated to me that critical information in respect of the investigation is outstanding, which they are in the process of obtaining before finalising the report,” Baloyi wrote.


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