Opposition blasts Icasa over AG report

Mobile network base station. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Mobile network base station. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – Opposition political parties reacted with anger to an Auditor General (AG) report of massive losses through wasteful and fruitless expenditure at key state assets.

The AG identified that the SABC, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), Brand SA, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) and Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) had collectively racked up irregular expenditure of R451m and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R21.3m.

READ: SABC wastes millions, AG finds

“We don’t say: ‘This money is lost.’ We don’t say that goods and services were not provided for this amount. What we are saying is that we cannot determine whether a fair, transparent and equitable process was followed,” audit executive Alice Muller told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications.

However, members of parliament on Wednesday were visibly unimpressed with the performance of the state entities.

“Over the last three quarters of the financial year, for me it indicates a massive failure by Icasa. It’s interesting for me to see that while there was not delivery, the money was still spent in the budget. I want you to tell me how you justify that,” said Veronica van Dyk, Democratic Alliance shadow minister for communications.

READ: Poor management blamed for SABC, Icasa waste

Vacancies

Icasa assured the committee that it was working to remedy its 29% organisational performance score and argued that ad hoc projects took time and resources.

“There are projects on an ad hoc basis that we have to address and some of these take considerable resources and considerable time which means we have to deviate in some sense from what we have planned,” said Icasa councillor Katherine Pillay.

Luthando Mbinda, president of the Pan Africanist Congress, raised his concerns in the committee meeting.

“Our concern is always about vacant posts. Are you saying that in 53 million South Africans, there is no-one you can find to fill those posts? Or is it clear sabotage to the president?” said Luthando Mbinda, president of the Pan Africanist Congress.

Icasa reported 80 vacancies that had “a negative impact on service delivery”.

“In his Sona address, he promised the South Africans employed, but yet today we see vacant posts not filled. Is it deliberate? You can’t tell me that you can’t fill a post because you can’t find a person qualified for that post,” Mbinda added.

The organisation came under fire for hiring consultants. Icasa defended the fact that it spent R32m on consultants in 2014/15.

“We don’t use consultants where it’s not necessary but at the same time it’s not always practical and possible to have those resources on a full time basis,” said Pillay.

Bonuses

However, there were sharp questions on the organisation’s budget, despite a lack of service delivery.

“For me what is also concerning is that 60% plus of the budget goes to salaries. It seems that if you look at the outcome, the service from Icasa’s side represents a job creation incentive,” said Van Dyk.

Pillay assured the committee that the poor performance of the organisation resulted in no executives being paid bonuses.

“We’re cognisant that we can’t pay bonuses when we achieve 29% and the concern is that if we were to paid bonuses, then it would encourage the wrong kind of behaviour.”


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