Taxpayers will have to bail out profligate SABC
IT’S A FAIR ASSUMPTION that had the South African Broadcasting Corporation been a private company it would now be in bankruptcy. It’s a financial, administrative and operational nightmare and only billions more of taxpayers’ money can keep it going. Thus taxpayers should reconcile themselves to the reality that, in addition to paying a licence to the SABC in order to operate a TV set, we’re also going to have to fund it out of general tax revenues.
This is yet another form of stealth tax imposed upon us by our profligate ruling elite. Nobody can accuse the SABC of having been out of step with its ultimate governor, the ANC. Jobs for pals, overstaffing, fruitless expenditure, extravagant offices – not only here but also in world capitals, where expensive bureaus are maintained for no sound journalistic purpose. All that, combined with suspicious contractual practices and burgeoning employee costs as new people are recruited in the face of mounting losses.
In 2005 the SABC had 3 500 employees, including permanent, contractual and freelance categories. That rose to 4 100 two years later and since then, and in the face of mounting losses, it has continued to rise precisely when it should have been falling. Estimates now put the number at around 4 500 and what the SABC, as is the case with other ANC structures, is learning is that those inflexible labour laws so enthusiastically greeted by the comrades years ago are a massive barrier against the sort of reorganisation the SABC desperately needs.
Again, there’s no possible way the SABC will be able to trade its way out of its current morass. It must be subjected to corporate surgery. The head count has to come down by at least a third, if not more.
It’s people who cost more than anything else and if they aren’t contributing to profits, then they’re passengers who must leave the ship. There will be amazement at what emerges from that sort of purge.
As your ageing correspondent discovered at the Fairfax group in Australia – where we reduced the head count from 5 200 to 2 000 – there were large numbers of people who had retired but neglected to let us know. There were others who, while never denying themselves their annual holidays, didn’t feel it necessary that be recorded anywhere – thus the company ended up owing them months and months of leave, a liability that grew each year as wages and salaries went up. And, of course, there were those who denied themselves holidays because they feared they might be caught out in some sort of fraud.
And there was the usual abuse of company fleet cars being used for private purposes, company phones employed for long discussions with friends and family all over the world, expense accounts including groceries from supermarkets.
Here’s a tip for the poor sod who ends up running the SABC: chart your stationery consumption. You’ll find that as the school holidays end your consumption of stationery rises dramatically. The staff members are stealing it for their kids.
And on day one of your management rule issue an order that 20% of all telephones must be disconnected and removed from the building. And flog the building. There’s plenty of warehouse space available in which to erect studios, offices and so on. And it will be found that the mere act of moving exposes all sorts of money-destroying practices, including corruption.
Some folk actually run their own businesses from within the corporate structure using corporate resources. A move flushes that sort of thing out.
And let your board know from the outset you’re running the show. They are there, like the US Senate, to advise and consent but not to do. Don’t provide any office accommodation for the board – in particular the chairman.
Whoever inherits this frightful task must make it a non-negotiable condition that there will be sufficient funds provided in terms of SA’s pie-in-the-sky labour laws to get rid of a couple of thousand people.
And avoid consultants like the plague. If you want advice you can get it for nothing from antiques like me, who have been there and done it.