Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hands-on Government Micromanagement Not Appropriate

The role of the Ministry and Department of Communications in solving the crises at SABC


The Save our SABC Coalition working group met this week to discuss a number of issues including a recent statement made by the Ministry of Communications (22 September 2009). The Ministry released a statement calling for its shareholder’s compact with the SABC to be tightened. The Ministry argued that in light of the serious financial findings of the Auditor General’s Report there needed to be much stronger oversight of the SABC. The Minister announced he would be introducing important corrective measures including the following:

  • Conduct a thorough assessment of and clearly define the roles and authority of senior SABC managers
  • Review human resource policies and implementation thereof
  • Review benefits applicable to management in particular and staff in general
  • Review policies governing the involvement of employees in private business activities
  • Request monthly management accounts and monthly operational reports from the SABC
  • Ensure that all major decisions, financial or otherwise have full approval of the shareholder (i.e. Minister), Board and Group Executive
  • Conduct a needs analysis of SABC channels to determine the type and amount of content they require
  • Monitor the implementation of local content quotas and conduct a thorough assessment of the need for and acquisition of international content including ensuring that all content is used
  • Ensuring the SABC complies with the Public Finance Management Act

A further measure included a call for the Department of Communications to participate as full and active members on a number of important SABC Board sub-committees including Risk, Audit and Internal Audit.


The SOS Working Group commended the Minister on highlighting the critical areas that need to be addressed. However, going forward, the SOS Coalition believes that it is not appropriate for the Ministry and/or Department to play such a hands-on role. To solve the myriad crises at the SABC, there needs to be clarity in terms of roles, responsibility and lines of accountability. This is in terms of the governance structures at the SABC (Board and management) and oversight structures (Ministry and Department, Regulator and Parliament).

In summary we believe the Ministry and Department’s chief role is to ensure the overall viability and sustainability of the communications sector through the drafting of clear and comprehensive policy and legislation and ensuring adequate resources are available. In terms of the Public Finance Management Act, the SABC Board needs to report to the Department on a quarterly basis as regards the corporation’s finances. (Monthly management accounts should never go directly to the Department.)

Parliament then needs to rigorously interrogate the SABC both in terms of its fulfilling of its vision and mission (i.e. its adherence to its Charter obligations) and on its finances. The SABC Board needs to present its corporate plans, financials and annual report. In terms of all content issues it is the Regulator that is responsible.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa needs to ensure that the SABC adheres to its Charter and to its detailed license conditions. (The license conditions outline the SABC’s local content and language requirements.)

Finally, the SABC Board has a very critical role to play in terms of directly holding management to account. It is the Board that needs to outline the SABC’s strategic vision in terms of programming and operational issues including human resource and financial policies.

So in terms of the above we thus believe that it is not appropriate for the Department to get involved in Board sub-committees. Nor do we believe that the Department should get involved in human resource issues or the monitoring of monthly management accounts and operational plans. These issues need to be overseen by the Board and it is the Board that needs to present management accounts to the Department. This clarity of roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability we believe will be one of the key ways of resolving the present crises.

Kate Skinner, Campaign Coordinator, Save our SABC
082 926 6404
77 First Ave, Melville, 2092