Chairperson of the interim South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board Khanyisile Kweyama didn’t beat around the bush in her frank overview of the SABC’s annual report for 2016-17, saying there was financial mismanagement of “terrifying magnitudes”.
She described the financial year as “another watershed year for the SABC”.
“It had all the hallmarks of an institution under enormous financial, political and leadership strain. It was a year that saw Parliament instituting an inquiry into the ability of the board to hold office, leading to resignations of some members and the ultimate collapse of that board,” wrote Kweyama in the report that was tabled in Parliament this week.
She also mentioned that the SABC received constant news coverage due to “intermittent court cases and utterances by management that were of such a negative order that they led to the suspension of the COO”, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
“We also saw mismanagement of the corporation’s finances at terrifying magnitudes, resulting in its inability to settle debts as they fall due.”
“At the same time, those tasked with the leadership of the corporation were reluctant to admit to the glaring crisis, preferring to draw up a corporate plan that did not address the operational, reputational and financial realities of the SABC.”
'Lack of commitment'
She described the SABC’s performance in the year under review as “dismal both financially and operationally”.
“We have seen a reduction in audiences from some SABC platforms as a result of bad programme scheduling and interference with the news editorial policies. Platforms which were significantly affected by these decisions are the commercial radio stations, SABC and SABC News.”
According to the financial statements, the SABC recorded losses of R977-million after taxes and incurred fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R145.99-million and irregular expenditure of R4.4-billion, of which R514.95-million was due to procurement policies not being followed.
“There was a complete lack of commitment to proper governance in the year under review by both the executives and the previous board.”
She said the “breakdown in governance structures” is also evident in the level of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the depleted cash reserves and a number of court cases against broadcaster’s former executives.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement on Thursday that despite its challenges, the broadcaster still delivered on its public service mandate.
According to the statement, SABC Acting Group Chief Executive Officer Nomsa Philiso stated, “We are naturally disappointed with financial performance for the 2016/17 financial year. We are however encouraged by the great progress that is starting to show in the first quarter of the current financial year”.
“In particular, costs containment measures are in place and financial prudence is exercised throughout. We are working hard to sustain this progress and to deal with all the outstanding issues raised by the Auditor-General.”
The interim board’s term ended on Tuesday, but President Jacob Zuma is yet to appoint the permanent board Parliament recommended to him three weeks ago.
Kweyama and the other four members of the interim board – Mathatha Tsedu, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, John Matisonn and Krish Naidoo – are among the 12 recommendations for the board.