SABC awarded dodgy contract to stop wasteful expenditure
The SABC irregularly appointed a company to help them with irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. This was the conclusion of MPs during Wednesday’s meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). The MPs wanted to call James Aguma, SABC CFO and acting CEO, to account, but he could not attend due to illness.
The MP’s took a dim view of his absence. The contract with SekelaXabiso is the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, due by August, said Krish Naidoo, member of the interim SABC board. The auditor general is also investigating.
SekelaXabiso, who, according to their website, “pride ourselves in applying international best practice to deliver rigorous Internal Audit, IT Audit, Forensic Audit and Business Consulting services of the highest standards,” was appointed to sort out the public broadcaster’s irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the 2014/2015 financial year. This was done, despite the SABC having its own internal audit unit. The committee heard, however, that the SABC had experienced internal capacity constraints.
Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said the SABC had a serious skills problem, as shown by an internal skills audit. “As long as we don’t deal with the skills issue, we’ll continue to have problems,” she said.
‘We are dealing with criminality’
Initially, SekelaXabiso was granted a contract from April 7 to July 31, 2015, for R4.7m. Then there was a contract between December 1, 2015, and July 31, 2016, worth R10.4m, followed by a contract from November 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017, worth R9.8m.
Meanwhile, the irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure continued, amounting to R5.1bn for irregular expenditure and R74m for fruitless and wasteful expenditure over the past five financial years. MPs could not ascertain what exactly SekelaXabiso had done in return for all the money. ANC MP Ezekiel Kekana said it was very clear that the contract was illegal.
DA MP Alf Lees concurred. “I think we are dealing with criminality, to an extent that is unimaginable,” he said. ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi said: “Aguma has run away from this meeting, because he knows Xabiso was a wrong appointment.” ANC MP Vincent Smith said, if the interim board allowed one more cent to be paid on this contract, they would fall foul of the Public Finance Management Act.
“If you pay them, I will call for your dismissal. You’ll be delinquent directors,” Smith said sternly.
‘Aguma must fall’
MPs were insistent that Aguma must come to Parliament to be held accountable, and not only about the SekelaXabiso contract. Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing relating to his bizarre press conference in April was also due to take place on Wednesday.
Deputy chairperson of the interim SABC board Mathatha Tsedu said Motsoeneng’s lawyers had provided them with an affidavit from Aguma where he said he had given Motsoeneng permission to hold this press conference, and that the board had decided to take disciplinary steps against Motsoeneng. Tsedu said Aguma was at the board meeting where they decided to take these steps. DA MP Tim Brauteseth said there should be disciplinary steps taken against Aguma for this. “Aguma must fall.
Hashtag,” he said. “He didn’t have the courage to appear here.” Dlodlo said she did not want to publicly discuss disciplinary steps against executives. Shortly after the meeting, Scopa chairperson Themba Godi released a press statement.
He said Scopa was not taking Aguma’s absence lightly.
“This is particularly because Mr Aguma, as the current Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for most of the problematic contracts that have resulted to the amount of R5bn of irregular expenditure.”