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

 The SABC is sinking deeper into a financial quagmire and recorded a staggering R509m operating loss for the fourth quarter ending March 31, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo says.

The minister told an economics cluster question-and-answer session in the National Assembly on Wednesday that under the circumstances the public broadcaster would not be able to meet its contractual obligations, including paying service providers.

The SABC recorded a loss of R411m in the 2015-16 financial year, up from R395m the previous year.

Dlodlo said a moratorium had been imposed on capital expenditure and disciplinary cases involving employees on paid suspension would be expedited. She said the number of consultants would be reduced.

“The board’s turnaround strategy has been finalised.... I will give them all the support they need to turn around the SABC,” the minister said.

The SABC’s interim board on Wednesday confirmed it had withdrawn a decision by its predecessors to appeal against the public protector’s damning 2014 report on governance lapses at the broadcaster.

The public protector’s findings led to former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s fall from grace. Motsoeneng, who is on suspension pending a disciplinary hearing, has been blamed for most of the crises at the broadcaster, including its dire financial situation.

The controversial licence fee collection contract with Lorna Vision has also been cancelled and submitted for forensic audit by the Special Investigating Unit. SABC acting CEO James Aguma awarded the multimillion-rand contract to Lorna Vision in 2016, even though the public broadcaster has a licence collection department with 164 staff.

The board will soon hold talks with MultiChoice and TNA/ANN7, the Gupta-owned TV station, to discuss contracts and determine whether they will remain valid.

The R533m deal gave MultiChoice access to the SABC’s entire archive. The contract has been criticised by MPs, industry players and civil society organisations, who argue that the deal is anticompetitive. And questions have been raised about the rationality of entering into a deal with a rival station.

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