An explosive labour court case and details from top SABC insiders reveal how Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the public broadcaster’s controversial group executive of corporate affairs, allegedly ignored governance protocols to seize control of television content.
Motsoeneng allegedly “traumatised” Verona Duwarkah, the SABC’s former group executive for television, and made her staff report to him alone.
He then proceeded to set up a new process to commission R600 million worth of local TV shows.
For these, he brought in chosen producers, many of them celebrity actors, to the SABC through a back door.
This unit, called Special Projects, defies the SABC’s own commissioning policy, as well as the regulations of industry watchdog The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, this week revealed that the broadcaster’s reported unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful spend – amounting to R421 million for 2015/16 – was massively understated. In fact, the figure amounts to R798.2 million.
Also, Motsoeneng’s implementation of an 80% local TV content quota was done without a risk assessment – and with near-fatal repercussions for SABC3.
Motsoeneng armed Special Projects – which was overseen by SABC’s head of education, Danie Swart, and SABC2’s programming director, Jacqui Hlongwane – with the R600 million budget previously intended for the RFP book for independent producers.
The SABC’s answering affidavit reveals that only 57 of the 1 426 proposals received were commissioned.
Motsoeneng then announced that the RFP book was scrapped – but by then, R200 million had been spent on it.
According to two senior insiders, this sum was diverted from marketing budgets to bring the total back to R600 million for Motsoeneng’s favoured producers.
Motsoeneng’s new content commissioning system contravenes numerous clauses of the SCM and the 2010 policies, not least for failing to be “equitable, transparent, fair and accountable”.
This week, the Auditor-General reported on the SABC, saying: “Irregular expenditure was a result of SCM processes and policies not being followed. Poor record management, policies lacking alignment and inadequate compliance monitoring contributed significantly” to the SABC’s irregular expenditure.
Motsoeneng dismisses the idea that his or his close SABC associate Sully Motsweni’s “friends” are benefiting from the new arrangement.