The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) says a probe into the awarding of various contracts at the SABC will still go ahead, despite a recent court ruling that found that one of the deals in question was above board.

The current financial mess at the public broadcaster has largely been blamed on the poor decisions by former executives, including awarding multimillion rand contracts to external service providers, many of which were not necessary.

The broadcaster, which remains the only source of news and commentary for millions of South Africans, is facing a severe liquidity crisis and has requested R6.8bn from the government to stay afloat, but its bid for funding has so far been unsuccessful.

Last week, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg dismissed the SABC and SIU’s court application to review and set aside a multimillion rand contract the public broadcaster had awarded to audit company Sekela Xabiso Incorporated.

The embattled public broadcaster had hired the company to identify irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure in the organisation. However, in 2017 the interim SABC board at the time suspended the audit company's contract, saying that proper procurement processes were not followed. The SABC contended that the audit firm was appointed through a deviation process despite the lack of any urgency or emergency.

The broadcaster, together with the SIU, subsequently launched a court application to seek an order reviewing and setting aside the decision to appoint the firm.

Sekele Xabiso challenged the SABC and SIU’s assertions that they were hired irregularly. In a judgment handed down last week, the high court found that the appointment did meet the requirements of the SABC procurement prescripts. The SIU and the SABC said they would appeal against the ruling.

“The SIU is studying the judgment in detail and in consultation with the SABC will consider the appropriate legal remedies,” SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor said on Tuesday.

Pandor said, however, that the SABC investigation into various contracts, including that of Sekela Xabiso, was continuing and a final report would be submitted to the presidency in due course.

In 2018, Andy Mothibi, the head of the SIU, pointed out that initial investigations showed that former board members and executives had a case to answer in the irregular awarding of contracts and salary increases.  

He said the SIU had found evidence that indicated that there were irregularities in the awarding of various contracts including to Vision View Productions, Sekela Xabiso, Lorna Vision, Lezaf Consulting, Gekkonomix (trading as Infonomix), Asante Sana, Foxton Communicating and Mott MacDonald.

The SIU said former members of the SABC board should be declared delinquent directors and be placed under probation for failing to act in the best interests of the corporation.

The SIU and the SABC are also trying to recoup losses incurred by the broadcaster by withholding the pensions of erstwhile bosses including former CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and James Aguma, who previously acted in the position of CEO.

The new SABC board‚ chaired by Bongumusa Makhathini‚ has been on an aggressive drive to improve the dire financial state and the operations of the public broadcaster after years of decline under Motsoeneng and other former executives who he irregularly awarded contracts, staggering salary increases and promotions. 

phakathib@businesslive.co.za