Monday, June 28, 2010

Article from the Financial Mail: SABC financially unsustainable?

Starting all over again

Carol Paton, Financial Mail, Johannesburg, 24 June 2010

The SABC board has gone back to the drawing board to appoint the corporation’s head of news, a decision backed by minister of communications Siphiwe Nyanda.

Board chairman Ben Ngubane — who unilaterally appointed staffer Phil Molefe to the position a month ago, before the board had completed the interviewing procedures — has reluctantly had to accept the decision.

The four candidates who had been short-listed for the job will now be evaluated by the interviewing committee and a recommendation will be made to the board. However, Nyanda, who met the board last week, appealed to it to delay any further discussion on the future of Ngubane or CEO Solly Mokoetle — both of whom had acted in defiance of the board over Molefe’s appointment — until “after the World Cup”. After the appointment, the board passed a resolution stating there had been a breakdown of trust between it and Ngubane.

“The shareholder [represented by Nyanda] agreed that the process of interviewing, scoring and recommendation for the head of news should [be resumed] ,” said a member of the board. “But he also said that to retain the integrity and sustainability of the corporation, we should not take actions that will precipitate another crisis. He suggested that we deal with other things later.”

While board members have differing views on what should be done about Ngubane (who is appointed by the president) and Mokoetle (appointed by the previous board) they agreed to hold off discussing it, in the interests of dealing with other pressing issues. Chief among them is the SABC’s financial position.

The financial statements for 2009/2010, which were seen by the board last week, show the corporation is still in the red. Losses are believed to be in the region of R400m, though this is significantly less than last year’s R900m.

Also, crucial targets were missed by management. These were not set by Mokoetle, who took up his post only in January 2010, board members strongly feel he has not provided leadership.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan met Ngubane last week. As treasury provided the SABC with a R1bn credit guarantee last November, he has a special interest in the corporation’s financial affairs. In terms of the loan guarantee, the SABC is obliged to meet certain targets and conditions.

It must also submit a turnaround plan before a further R473m guarantee will be provided.

Without a strong plan the SABC could be judged financially unsustainable when its audit is finalised in July.