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MPs lambast SABC top brass

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Parliament - Suspended SABC financial officer Gugu Duda surprised many at the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday by making an appearance and trying to make her own presentation to MPs.

Committee chairman Themba Godi cut Duda short when she tried to interrupt proceedings to give her own version of woes at the public broadcaster over the past eight years.

“Let the leadership of the SABC board give us the information that they believe and that they agreed was going to be the official version, and if there's any discrepancy, let's have it later,” Godi ruled.

Godi said MPs could not waste time on such matters.

“It looks poorly on us as Parliament... how did we choose you, what kind of people did we choose really?” Godi said while placing his head in his hands.

MPs wasted little time in lambasting SABC board and management members for the lack of internal control which led to the SABC receiving another qualified audit opinion for the 2011/12 book year.

“The result of this lack of internal control (was)... of the 66

planned performance indicators only 20 were achieved... this represents a 70 percent failure rate,” ANC MP Roy Ainsley charged.

Board chairman Ben Ngubane said he accepted that there were delays in improving governance structures, but that measures were being put in place to remedy shortcomings.

Group CEO Lulama Mokhobo backed him up, saying it would not happen overnight.

“I would like to reiterate we are in the process of fixing eight years of a mess... it takes time.

“We've reviewed policies and we are working on additional policies,” said Mokhobo.

One of the reasons for a lack of internal control was a vacuum left by the suspension of the head of internal audits.

Ngubane said they had submitted a preferred candidate to take over the position, but it had been rejected by Communications Minister Dina Pule because of a “lack of qualification”.

MPs also insisted on a greater level of stability at the organisation which had seen managers hired and fired over the past few years, resulting in chaos at executive level.

At least two of the SABC executive members who presented on Tuesday were in acting positions.

They were acting CFO Tian Olivier and acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“The SABC is more like Hollywood, where almost everyone is in an actor or in an acting position,” quipped one MP.

Speaking to Sapa after the meeting, Mokhobo and Ngubane explained the bizarre turn of events which saw the internal strife at the corporation displayed openly in Parliament.

Mokhobo said Duda had used the Broadcasting Act to “force her way into meetings”.

The Act gave the suspended CFO the right to be a board member.

“Within the Broadcasting Act, no board member can be removed without sanction from the appointing authority, which is effectively Parliament and the president,” said Mokhobo.

Ngubane said he would not comment on the nature of the alleged wrongdoing by Duda except to say they were “serious issues” coming from an internal forensic audit.

He said Duda could not be prevented from attending meetings with parliamentary committees, as he had no authority to remove errant board members.

The aim of suspending her was to remove her from her office and prevent her from possibly destroying evidence.

“We are hoping that next week we'll have charges formulated properly and appoint the chairperson of the disciplinary committee,” said Ngubane. - Sapa

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