The meeting between the Parliament’s watchdog on public money and the top members of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) left the MPs with the challenge to spy into the firm’s financial management system which is currently in shambles following a R5.1 billion in incurred irregular expenditure.
The watchdog had on Wednesday lashed out on the SABC acting board executives for failing to explain in details the R5.1 billion in irregular expenditure and promised to hound the public broadcaster’s leadership until that explanation is fully provided.
Legislators made several attempts to solicit some answers from acting SABC chief executive James Aguma on who was responsible for the broadcaster’s cumulative irregular expenditure of over R5 billion.
But, while briefing the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Aguma claimed he was not to blame but also failed to identify who among the committee was responsible for the mass loot.
Among the SABC group executives include James Aguma Acting Group GCEO, Bessie Tugwana Acting COO, Tseliso Ralitabo GE-Media Technology; Samson Tebele GE: News; Hlaudi Motsoeneng GE: Corporate Affairs; Theresa Geldenhuys GE: Governance and Assurance; Sully Motsweni GE: Sport; Mohlolo Lephaka GE: Human Resources and Lindiwe Bayi Acting Company Secretary
Aguma was countless times interrupted mid-sentence as he failed to satisfy MPs with his answers on who was responsible for the fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R92.4 million.
An ANC MP, Mnyami Booi, was the first to shoot the first question. He asked about the late submission of documents to the committee, saying: “We really don’t need a lecture. Can you explain why the documents are late?”
It was followed by the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Ntombovuyo Mente who charged him to open up and tell them how the R5.1bn was spent.
“We are not going to get the information…we are denied this information deliberately so…and we are not going to entertain this,” Mente angrily said.
Meanwhile, Aguma tried in vain to provide answers to all the questions thrown at him. He answered the first questions by saying: “The reason the information is late is that we had to look at the quantum of information that we are trying to work through to disclose the opening balance of irregular expenditure for 2016,”
He went on to say that an investigation into the irregular expenditure would be concluded by month end.
“We have been trying to deal with qualifications on irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure from the financial year 2014. Our plans are to finalize the investigation to get an unqualified audit report this financial year [ending March 31].”
But the MPs refused to buy his explanations, saying the irregular expenditure was identified as far back as 2014, asking why there have been no consequences for those responsible for the illegal spending.
“R5.1 billion is an extremely large and extremely concerning amount of money and imagine what could have been done with that money…who is responsible for that? Who is willing to stand up and say it’s my fault, I take full and unequivocal responsibility for this money being wasted?” asked Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone.
Aguma said when he arrived at the SABC in 2013, he met the SABC financial management system in shambles, with “bizarre” supply chain management procedures as the original tax clearance certificates, as required by the law, were not provided by suppliers of goods and services.
He defended himself saying trying to track down the culprits was made cumbersome by the difficulty in finding a paper trail for the irregular expenditure.
Mnyami Booi refused to take Aguma’s explanations, he went on to suggest that the house (Scopa) write to the Hawks requesting the specialized police unit do a forensic probe at the SABC.
“Let’s sit on their necks, let’s not move…we will call them back every time, let’s not leave them,” he charged the watch dogs.