Committee recommends SABC board be dissolved

Friday, June 26, 2009

Parliament - The Portfolio Committee on Communications is expected to table a report recommending that the National Assembly dissolve the 12-member board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The portfolio committee called for an inquiry into the ailing board and met with its members earlier this week, where the SABC reported a financial loss of R839 million for the 2008/09 financial year as a result of declining revenue and unrestrained over expenditure.

The report on the outcomes of the inquiry, which recommends that it be dissolved, is expected to be tabled before the National Assembly on Tuesday at 12:00.

"The committee, noting the unanimous appeal made by the board members at the end of the enquiry calling upon the committee to recommend to the National Assembly the dissolution of the board, further finds there is no possibility of the current board being legally able and collectively competent to fulfill its statutory duties," reads a draft report which was finalized in a committee meeting on Friday morning.

"It has been a delicate process," Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Ismail Vadi said.

The public broadcaster was an important institution which needed to have its credibility and efficiency restored. "We have to do what we can to ensure proper control in the institution for the benefit of the country," said Mr Vadi.

The inquiry was held to investigate the status of the membership of the board, the functionality of it, the financial and funding crisis of the SABC, a Deloitte report on the breakdown in corporate governance at the SABC and the failure on the part of the executive management to effectively manage the finances and the operations of the broadcaster.

While most board members have already resigned, President Jacob Zuma has not yet decided whether the three months resignation notice will apply. Only one board member remains and it therefore no longer has a quorum.

The last remaining board member, Alison Gillwald, said there was nothing to resign from. She said she was prepared to sit on an interim board but would not be available to serve on a new board.

If the report is approved in Parliament, the portfolio committee will meet again on Thursday to consider nominations for new board members, said Mr Vadi.

Various presentations were made during the two-day inquiry, including those from the board of members, the SABC, the Save our SABC Coalition, the Television Industry Emergency Coalition, the Broadcasting, Electronic and Allied Workers' Union, the Communication Workers' Union and the Media Workers' Association of South Africa.

According to the draft report, the committee's deliberations culminated in the findings that the SABC is in a state of crisis, both financially and in terms of a breakdown in corporate governance and that there is a lack of common purpose among board members and the executive management impairing their ability to carry out their statutory fiduciary duties.

"The tensions between some board members of the executive management and some board members had contributed to a virtual breakdown in their relationships to the overall detriment of the SABC," reads the draft.

The report further states that the committee further found that there was evidence of serious lapses in sound operational management in the SABC by the executive management that warranted further urgent attention by the shareholder [government].

On Wednesday, the Minister of Communications Siphiwe Nyanda said he would welcome the dissolving of the board, because South Africa needed an SABC that produces results and carries out its mandate.

Speaking at the same media briefing, Deputy Minister Dina Pule said the funding model of the public broadcaster would be reviewed.

"There must be a balance between its public and private funding. A total of 98 percent [of its capital] is private funding from advertising while two percent is from public funds. As government, we want to balance it more in line with how it is done internationally."