SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) says it is trying to recover more than half a billion rand the SABC lost largely due to irregularly awarded contracts by former directors of the broke public broadcaster.

The SIU and the SABC are also trying to recoup losses by withholding the pensions of erstwhile bosses, including former COO 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 former executives to whom he irregularly awarded staggering salary increases and promotions.

The financial crisis at the public broadcaster has largely been blamed on the former executives. The SABC is technically insolvent and recorded a R192.3m loss in the first quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year. It posted an unaudited loss of R483m in the previous year. A year earlier it incurred a loss of R622m.

Briefing parliament’s public accounts watchdog on Wednesday about investigations at the broadcaster, SIU head Andy Mothibi said investigations had produced evidence to initiate or join civil litigation instituted by the SABC in various court matters to the value of just over R560m.

Mothibi said that as part of the overall SIU probe, the evidence and findings of all the individual investigations are being collated with a view to pursuing potential actions and remedies against board members and executive directors of the SABC.

The actions considered include criminal action and taking steps such as having former SABC board members declared delinquent directors.

He said the SIU had found evidence that indicated there were irregularities in the awarding of various contracts, including to Vision View Productions, SekelaXabiso, Lornavision, Lezaf Consulting, Gekkonomix (trading as Infonomix), Asanta Sana, Foxton Communicating and Mott MacDonald. The Lornavision contract was set aside by a high court. In 2018 the SIU submitted evidence to the SABC’s attorneys in support of a civil claim against Lornavision and Aguma to recover close to R63m.

There is also a claim of R10m against Motsoeneng related to irregular appointments and salary increases he authorised. The SIU confirmed the public protector’s findings that the appointments of three named SABC staff and their salary increases were irregular.

There is a further claim of R11.5m related to a “succession fee” paid to Motsoeneng. Motsoeneng is opposing both claims.

The SIU is in the process of applying for a proclamation to investigate the sponsorships given to the formerly Gupta-owned and now defunct publication The New Age by other state-owned entities and government entities, said Mothibi.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za