Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SOS strongly supports the Public Protector’s recommendations on the SABC but calls for further action

Yesterday, the Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, released her report called “When Governance and Ethics Fail”  (see attachment) on an investigation into allegations of maladministration, systemic corporate governance deficiencies, abuse of power and the irregular appointment of the COO, Mr. Hlaudi Motsoeneng by the SABC.

The report communicates, inter alia, the following allegations as being substantiated:

  • That the SABC Board under Dr Ben Ngubane, allowed Mr Motsoeneng to Act as Chief Operating Officer for a period exceeding 3 months without the requisite Board resolution, and exceeding the capped salary allowance;
  • That the GCEO and Dr Ngubane’s approval of each of Mr. Motsoeneng’s three salary increments amounting to 63% in a single fiscal year was irregular;
  • That former Board Chairperson, Dr Ngubane, abused his power and acted as a de facto executive chairperson of the SABC;
  • That Mr Motsoeneng, by his own admission, made fraudulent misrepresentations to his employers that he had completed his Matric qualification;
  • That suspended CFO, Ms Gugu Duda, was appointed irregularly through the interference of the Department of Communications and, by implication, then Minister of Communications, Ms Dina Pule; and
  • That Mr Motsoeneng, irregularly and through his abuse of power, purged senior staff members, particularly those who challenged him, from the SABC, leading to an avoidable loss of millions of Rands towards salaries in unnecessary settlements, escalating the SABC’s salary bill by an unprecedented amount in excess of R29 million.

The Public Protector’s findings lay bare what the public has known to be happening in the SABC all along. It gives detail to the gross maladministration and systemic corporate governance breaches in the SABC that the SOS Coalition has been campaigning against since its inception in 2008. The Public Protector’s findings give merit to the SOS Coalition’s position that the SABC has been and remains in crisis. Indeed, the Coalition agrees with her observation of a series of “pathological corporate governance failures by the SABC.” These findings, read together with last year’s audit disclaimer by the Auditor General of South Africa, the damning SABC Skills Audit report as well as the recent resignation of Ms Lulama Mokhobo as GCEO points to an organization that completely lacks leadership and, further, in many instances operates outside of the law. It is apparent that promises of stability, clean governance and good effective administration made by successive SABC Boards are far from bearing fruit. 

The Coalition has routinely called on the relevant oversight bodies which oversee the SABC’s functioning to play their part without fear or favour.

  • Throughout the periods 2008 – 2014, we have consistently called on the various Ministers of Communications and SABC Boards to resolve the long-standing legal dispute which, at every turn, has blocked the appointment of a permanent incumbent in the position of COO and resulted in some of the irregularities which the Public Protector has pointed to in her report;
  • From 2008 to date, we have consistently called on the Minister of Communications to back off from interfering unduly in the appointment processes of the senior executives of the SABC and leave the process to the Board alone;
  • In April, 2013, we wrote to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications, on behalf of the people of South Africa, to take control of the situation and undertake a full and purposive inquiry into and root out the causes of the SABC’s governance problems at all levels. We went as far as requesting, unsuccessfully, an audience with the Committee to outline our concerns and present our contribution to developing a roadmap to transforming the SABC once and for all.

And yet, each of these calls was not taken into account, precipitating a chain of events where the SABC’s waning reputation and even weaker standing both in governance and financial soundness was further compromised.
The Coalition and, indeed, the people of South Africa are fed up with being outraged, dismayed and astonished. We need to abandon the denials about where the SABC stands. We need the problems to be named honestly and radical interventions to be taken.
The SOS Coalition wholeheartedly supports the Public Protector’s recommendations including in particular the appointment of an experienced qualified COO in the next 90 days. However, we do not believe that these actions alone are enough to turn around the systemic irregularities, corporate governance failures and egregious fruitless and wasteful expenditure of our public broadcaster.

We therefore, in addition, call for the following:

  • For the Minister to clearly and unambiguously commit to ensuring that neither he nor his Department will intervene in the appointments of the executive management of the SABC going forward. (SOS has embarked on a legal course of action to prevent the Minister from playing any role in appointments.)
  • For Parliament to boldly admit to their part in not holding the SABC to account in terms of the serious ongoing corporate governance and financial problems plaguing the SABC, and to commit to holding the SABC Board and the Department of Communications to account in terms of building strong public broadcasting in the country. SOS will be calling on all political parties to put forward their views on public broadcasting in the lead up to our elections.
  • For the SABC Board to clearly, boldly and publically commit to collective good corporate governance of the SABC including the appropriate filling of executive posts with qualified,
  • experienced incumbents. As the first step to ensuring good governance at the Corporation the SOS Coalition calls for the immediate suspension of Mr Motsoeneng.

We need swift, fair, open and transparent action to be taken to deal with the many crises outlined above and for all role-players to be held accountable.

The SOS Coalition is joining hands with its members, partners and other civil society organizations and movements to build a popular, grassroots campaign around public broadcasting. The Coalition will be organizing a series of crisis meetings to gather support.
We need an SABC that works. We demand an SABC that works!

For more information contact:
Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
Coordinator (Acting)
076 084 8077

“When Governance and Ethics Fail” 

The SOS Coalition represents a broad spectrum of civil society stakeholders committed to the broadcasting of quality, diverse, citizen-orientated public-interest programming aligned to the goals of the SA Constitution. The Coalition includes a number of trade union federations including COSATU and FEDUSA, a number of independent unions including BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and Section 27, as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.