Working parly document on SABC reveals urgent recommendations

Urgent steps that include a recovery of wasteful expenditure, a forensic audit and operational changes are recommended to clean up the rot at the SABC and ensure no political interference in the daily functioning of the public broadcaster.

Wide-ranging recommendations are outlined in a rough working document that was circulated on Tuesday to members of the parliamentary ad hoc committee that is conducting an inquiry into the fitness of the SABC board.

The document, which has not been released officially, will be deliberated upon on Thursday and Friday, and is subject to substantial changes.

Evaluating the testimony of witnesses, the document says that more deliberation was required in cases where testimony was not corroborated or was contradicted.

This included the testimony of the shareholder, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

It found systematic failures of the board and said there was an urgent need for clarity on legislation governing the appointment and dismissal of board members.

The working document, which has been seen by Media 24, also recommends “appropriate sanctions” against witnesses found to have misled or provided false information in their testimony while under oath.

It calls for more investigations – and sanctions “where proof of perjury is proven” – into potential misleading or contradictory evidence relating to SABC board minutes, commercially sensitive documentation not provided to the SABC and the hosting of The New Age breakfast shows.

The forensic audit relates to the agreement that resulted in the transfer of part of the SABC archives to MultiChoice “with the specific aim of considering annulment of the agreement in the event of evidence of any improper activities”.

The document also recommends the urgent dissolution of the SABC board, which ceased to exist after the resignation of the last-remaining non-executive member, Mbulaheni Maghuve, last month.

The document calls on Parliament to ensure that all legal costs incurred as a result of Maghuve’s failed court challenge against the inquiry are recovered “from the chairperson’s personal funds”.

Recommendations relating to the board include:

» An interim board institute a probe into fruitless and wasteful expenditure, which amounted to R5.1 billion as reported in the previous financial year. The funds should be recovered and action taken against implicated officials.

» All vacant critical senior management positions should be filled, and the appointment and removal of board members must be in compliance with the Public Broadcasting Act.

» The accounting officer should facilitate the implementation of the Public Protector’s remedial action contained in a 2014 report – and subsequent court judgment – in full.

Recommendations relating to the shareholder – the communications minister – included a clarification of roles to ensure that there is “no undue encroachment into the responsibilities of the board” and a separation of powers, with no involvement in the day-to-day operation.

The shareholder should also be more “pro-active” in ensuring good corporate governance.

The document notes that allegations of gross political interference by politicians on the operation of the SABC board, were in “direct contradiction of other claims of no political interference”.

The ad hoc committee’s chairperson, Vincent Smith, said earlier that the report would not be released officially to the media as it had no status and was subject to substantial changes.

“It is a raw summary of proceedings, with some recommendations, but it has no status whatsoever.” he said. While the first section of the report – containing a summary of factual testimony – was unlikely to be disputed, the area where there would be lobbying and interpretation were the observations and recommendations.

“Although I am hoping that the skeleton remains the same, members could be in favour or rubbish the findings and recommendations. Members will apply their minds now, with their caucuses, and it will be debated on Thursday,” he said.

After deliberations end on Friday, members will finalise a draft report by January 24.

Ruling out the possibility of more witnesses being called, Smith said that people wishing to provide more information could do so in writing until January 24. Their affidavits would be considered for the final report.

Copies of the draft report will also be distributed to the SABC – for comment only – until February 9.

The report is due to be finalised by February 15, with a deadline for it to go to the National Assembly by February 28.

» City Press and MultiChoice are both owned by Naspers.

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