/ 4 February 2014

MPs grill SABC over staff’s serious lack of skills

MPs have questioned whether the SABC is capable of transitioning to digital braodcasting after a report showed a severe lack of skills.
MPs have questioned whether the SABC is capable of transitioning to digital braodcasting after a report showed a severe lack of skills.

Members of Parliament came down hard on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and questioned whether the public broadcaster was capable of a successful transformation to digital broadcasting scheduled to take off in June 2015.

This followed a presentation by the SABC leadership on Tuesday of an independent skills audit report, which was compiled by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2013.

The report reveals that the SABC lacked critical skills, especially as the corporation plans to move from analogue to digital.

The audit looked at qualification authentication, executive and senior management competency, and integrity assessment and skills audit.

The findings revealed that the most scarce and critical skills at the SABC were communication skills, time management, strategic thinking, broadcast engineering, budgeting skills, creative writing and scripting skills, and business management.

The independent audit report found that:

  • 60% of executive and senior managers at SABC do not meet the minimum strategic thinking skills for executives;
  • 56% were unable to demonstrate adequate levels in solving problems and making decisions;
  • A further 15% demonstrated only marginal competence in strategic thinking and problem solving.

"This suggests that the majority of the group [executive and senior managers] applies a reactive approach to solving problems, are not likely to consider all possible alternatives [or identify potential risks] or adequately consider long-term implications of decisions," states the audit.

No trust in board
It also revealed that staff respondents stated they "do not trust the management team or the SABC board and question their credibility". 

The total response rate was 78.23%.

On qualification authentication, the audit found that most of the people have requisite qualifications, but only 1 868 of the qualifications could be authenticated. Some of the other findings were that:

  • 2 252 [62%] of the employee personnel files had no proof of a senior certificate on file;
  • 24 employees [1%] had non-related qualification on file, for example a finance administrator had a diploma for beauty and health on file;
  • 124 employee personnel files could not be produced by the central hub and there was no audit trail available to track the movement of the files;
  • 24 employees [1%] had fraudulent or non-compliant senior certificates and Grade 10 certificates.

Group executive officer for human capital services Jabu Mabaso said the envisaged outcome of the skills audit report was to list critical and scarce skills for the SABC and the workforce segment; to look at personal development plans once the skills have been identified; and then devise organisational training plans to address the skills gaps identified for digitalisation and current needs.

He insisted: "The SABC has the necessary skills that could assist in migrating, but it needs to top them up."

Outgoing group chief executive Lulama Mokhobo said PricewaterhouseCoopers completed the first phase of the audit in June 2013 and that phase was mainly for all permanent staff of SABC.

The next phase, which is to be concluded at the end of this month, is for freelance staff "because we believe we needed to also assess them".

There is almost 1 300 freelance staff active at SABC, who include news readers and sports presenters.

The Democratic Alliance's Marian Shinn described the state of senior management as "in a dire state", saying it was unlikely that they could turn the corporation around and successfully oversee the transaction to digital.

"One wonders what planning has actually happened to go digital at SABC? One wonders, why you keep saying you can do this when you clearly can't."

Congress of the People's Juli Kilian said the findings were really worrying, especially the presentation of "fraudulent" qualifications by SABC staff.