Crunch time for SABC board, Motsoeneng
Auditor-General Makwetu complains of shoddy bookkeeping practices
A CURSORY reading of the SABC’s annual report shows a parliamentary inquiry into the fitness of the board to discharge its fiduciary responsibilities – as proposed by ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu this week – would have no trouble finding grounds to dissolve the board, even before it addresses the question of Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s controversial reappointment.
Not only has the SABC racked up R5.1 billion in total irregular expenditure, R441.2 million of it in the 2015/16 financial year, and allowed Motsoeneng’s salary to balloon to an annual package of R4.19m despite the Public Protector finding his previous increases were irregular, but it understated irregular expenditure to the tune of R35m, and failed to provide supporting documentation to verify the disclosure of a further R141.3m in irregular expenditure.
It also revised figures for irregular expenditure reported in previous years without checking whether or not supply chain management processes had been followed, leading Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu to complain that he was unable to determine whether any further adjustments to irregular expenditure were necessary.
There was both fruitless and wasteful expenditure that had not been declared in the financial statements, and expenditure incorrectly classified as fruitless and wasteful, again making it impossible to determine whether further adjustments to the disclosed figures were required.
These shoddy bookkeeping practices formed the basis for Makwetu’s qualified opinion.
In his notes on compliance with legislation, he said goods, works or services were not procured through a process that The Right2Know campaign is marching in Cape Town to demand that companies withdraw advertising from the SABC until steps are taken to address the crisis at the public broadcaster. was fair, equitable, transparent and competitive, as required by the Public Finance Manage- ment Act. In terms of the act, the board is the accounting authority for the SABC and takes responsibility for ensuring that adequate systems of internal control are in place.
Makwetu also noted disciplinary steps had not been taken against officials who made and permitted irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as required by the act.
The board faces a grilling by Parliament’s communications oversight committee on Wednesday on what it has done to implement the recommendations of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, When Governance and Ethics Fail, in which she found not only that Motsoeneng had lied about his qualifications when he applied for a job at the SABC, but also irregularly inflated the salaries of himself and senior staff close to him, while he purged those opposed to him, costing the SABC a fortune in settlement payments.
Madonsela recommended Motsoeneng be disciplined and the money wrongfully spent recovered. After initially resisting the instruction to hold a disciplinary inquiry, the SABC ultimately did so after a judgment in the Western Cape High Court found it could not Motsoeneng was absolved by the inquiry and there has never been an attempt to recover the money.
The committee will also be asking what actions the board has taken in light of the Appeal Court judgment setting aside Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operating officer, and the processes it followed in subsequently appointing him as group executive for corporate affairs.
Meanwhile, neither Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, who was in Mauritius for a television networking conference, nor the SABC, has responded to a cabinet instruction for Motsoeneng to be shown the door.
The SACP added its voice to the calls for Motsoeneng to go, as it welcomed Mthembu’s call for a parliamentary inquiry.
It said the SABC had “effectively been governed through court orders and out-of-court settlements”, many of which had simply been ignored.