Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to book — Mthethwa

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Monday vowed to ensure that those implicated in the mismanagement of millions of rand meant to benefit artists through the presidential employment stimulus programme (Pesp) were brought to book.

“We want each and every cent of that R285-million to go back to artists as intended. And we will ensure that it will go to the artists,” Mthethwa told a media briefing, at which the National Arts Council (NAC) presented an independent forensic report into the maladministration of the money.

“The matters that involve senior members of the NAC are going to be dealt with by the board. The most important thing is that consequence management is going to be felt by those involved,” Mthethwa said. 

In March, allegations emerged that about R300-million earmarked for artists who were unable to work during lockdowns implemented to try to curb Covid-19 infections had disappeared. This angered artists, who camped out at the NAC offices in Johannesburg and in other provinces throughout the country, demanding that the culprits be punished.

In May, a report compiled by the South African Roadies Association found that conflict of interest and maladministration had arisen in awarding the grants to artists. In some instances, double the money that had been applied for was awarded.

According to the NAC chairperson Princess Celenhle Dlamini, when concerns about the way the funding was disbursed began to surface, the council discovered that more than 55% of approved beneficiaries had not been allocated their funding, among other discrepancies.

“We instituted an independent forensic investigation in July this year. The results from the report point to gross maladministration and mismanagement. The report has also mentioned the names of certain senior individuals, [who] will be held accountable,” Dlamini said.

“The report has also highlighted a number of administrative failures in the Pesp programme. Failure to meet timelines; failure to manage the process. The auditors found multiple governance errors that sabotaged the programme and its purpose.”

Dlamini said the forensic report also revealed serious failures to provide financial oversight.

“Consequence management will be applied to all those implicated in the report. Senior management will be dealt with by the NAC council. Staff will also be disciplined by the NAC council,” she added.

Mthethwa told journalists he was not able to release the names of those implicated, but added that he had already written to those of them who were still at the NAC.

“Every two weeks the NAC will be reporting to me on how the disciplinary process is going until the process has been completed,” Mthethwa said.

One of the members of the NAC council, advocate Eric Nkosi, said the council was now working to recover the money. “We have no reason to believe that there were any fraudulent transactions. We believe that there were weaknesses in our internal control system,” he said.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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