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24 Jun 2009 09:00
The SABC was heading for “financial doldrums” by 2008, a former board member told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday afternoon.
Desmond Golding told the committee that he had raised financial problems on the SABC’s balance sheet during his first board meeting.
“I raised this issues when I joined the SABC board in 2008,” he said.
“I said this organisation is in the doldrums. You saw deep declines in revenue and sharp inclines in costs.”
He said costs at the end of 2004 were about R769-million.
They had risen to about R1,35-billion by the end of 2008.
“You attend meetings and you say this must be done, but nothing ends up getting done.
SABC board members had earlier refused to take questions from Parliament, but later agreed to testify “without prejudice”.
The board had spent much of the day arguing over whether they would participate in an inquiry into the troubled public broadcaster or not. They agreed after lunch to testify when they were assured that none of what was said in the inquiry would be used to prejudice any member.
The SABC is facing a financial crisis and seeking a R2-billion bailout from the government.
Nine members of the broadcaster’s 12 member board have resigned so far.
The series of resignations came as a motion of no confidence was filed against board chairperson Khanyisile Mkonza, who quit last month. The board was left with only three members and no longer had a quorum.
The inquiry, which was called last week, was expected to propose that the SABC board be dissolved. That proposal would then be put before the National Assembly to allow an interim board to be appointed.
Golding said the SABC had lost market share and showed a general lack of prudential financial management.
He blamed wastage, inefficiency and the lost rights to broadcast major rugby, cricket and soccer events as other causes of the SABC’s decline.
“We need to create a culture of accountability and strengthen the financial management of the SABC,” he said.
Board member Pansy Tlakula said when she joined the board, she had entered an organisation riddled with problems.
“I’m very sure that some of those problems were historical,” she said.
She said there had been political interference during her time on the board.
“We need to let a public broadcaster remain a public broadcaster,” she said, describing her time at the SABC as “the most difficult in my life”.
Board member Rob Golding described the SABC as a rusting old car.
“We got a car that was rusting and its wheels wobbling,” he said.
“We drove it off a cliff.”
Golding said the SABC could be fixed, but it was important that a number of “strategic projects” came to fruition.
“We lost focus because we were too busy running around hitting each other on the heads. The SABC needs better efficiency, management and governance than it gets.”
Mkonza told the committee: “Due to the political climate in this country, this board never stood a chance.”
The inquiry is due to continue on Wednesday morning. - Sapa
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