Axe hangs over four SABC execs
Four top executives at the crisis-ridden SABC—including chief financial officer Robin Nicholson and the group executive of content enterprises Mvuso Mbebe—have been asked to supply reasons to the interim SABC board why they should not be suspended.
The Mail & Guardian has learned from impeccable sources that the executives, who also include head of procurement Mabela Sathekge and head of audience services Anton Heunis, were called to meetings by the board and told it was considering action against them.
They were also asked to give reasons why they should not be suspended. Last week a report by the auditor general to Parliament revealed that SABC executives squandered millions of rands.
The four executives arrived at work this week to be confronted by a union notice in the lifts suggesting a “celebratory party” because they were being suspended.
“The names weren’t on the list but it was all over the building which executives were involved,” said a reliable source.
“Staff were already popping the champagne corks.”
A senior insider sympathetic to the four said the allegations against the executives would not “stick” if placed under scrutiny of the Public Finance Management Act.
It is understood that a particular source of frustration for some of those in the firing line is that the auditor general has selected certain allegations to pursue while ignoring others.
The M&G also understands that the executives claim they had to find ways to deal with new technology and be 100% compliant after the SABC threw out its old accounting system and replaced it in 2007 with a more modern system.
They are understood to be objecting that they were not given a chance to read the auditor general’s report or defend themselves before it was released to the media. They now believe they are the victims of “a trial by media”, in violation of their rights.
The SABC reported a financial loss of R839-million for the 2008/09 year and has asked the government for a R2-billion bailout.
The low-profile Nicholson has so far survived the purges plaguing the public broadcaster. But as the subject of five major investigations and 130 complaints during his term of office, he is known to be under heavy stress. He declined to comment on the latest controversy.
“I will not comment on personal matters or my contract with the SABC,” said Nicholson. “What I can say is that nobody has been suspended.”
The auditor general found many instances of inadequate financial controls, including: