Maxegwana said this when he opened a meeting with the Interim SABC Board in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament on Tuesday.
The deadline for applications and nominations of candidates to serve in the SABC Board, which was dissolved following an inquiry by an Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board that was appointed by the National Assembly, was 30 June 2017.
“We advertised for the Board of the SABC and the closing date was 30 June.
“Next week, we will be starting the process of shortlisting and thereafter interviews as a committee.
“…By the time the deadline [lapsed]… we received 362 applications. The office of the chair is working on summarising who has what in terms of qualifications and who meets the criteria, and that will be presented to the committee next week when we are shortlisting,” he said.
Maxegwana said it was good to note that the high number of applications was a signal that there is now a public interest in the broadcaster following the work of the Interim Board. He said the committee was satisfied with the manner in which the Board had carried out their mandate.
The Interim Board’s six-month mandate expires in two months.
Progress in implementing the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations
Meanwhile, the Interim SABC Board updated the committee on the progress that has been made to implement the 24 recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Committee appointed to conduct an inquiry into the SABC Board towards the end of last year.
Updating Members of Parliament (MPs), the Interim Board’s chairperson, Khanyisile Kweyama, said that on the recommendation for the Board to take reasonable steps to regularise previous decisions that may pose a financial or legal risk, the decision to ban the broadcast of violent footage from the SABC platforms has been rescinded.
Broadcast regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) has been informed of the decision, and a national public consultative process to review the editorial policy has been initiated.
“[The Interim Board] has reviewed the 90/10 local content directive to align with ICASA rules, with particular reference to those stations which suffered audience and revenue loss,” Kweyama said.
The Ad Hoc Committee also recommended that the Interim Board institute an independent investigation into questionable and irregularly-awarded contracts.
Kweyama said in this regard, the SABC has terminated the contracts with Lorna Vision and ANN7, and that its contract with Sekela Xabiso had been suspended.
Last week, the Johannesburg High Court ruled in favour of the SABC following the public broadcaster’s decision to cancel its debt collection contract with Lorna Vision amid reports that the firm was awarded the contract in 2015, allegedly without following procurement processes.
The cancellation of the ANN7 contract was in relation to The New Age business breakfasts, which Kweyama said 9 June was the last time the show was broadcast on SABC.
Audit firm Sekela Xabiso’s contract, on the other hand, was terminated following allegations that the company’s appointment to audit wasteful, fruitless and irregular expenditure was irregular.
Kweyama said the SABC’s contract with Multichoice, in terms of which SABC supplies Multichoice’s Dstv platform with a 24-hour news channel, an entertainment channel called Encore and access to the public broadcaster’s archives, is under review.
On a recommendation for action to be taken against current and former employees and board members, who are found to have been complicit in the SABC incurring wasteful expenditure as a result of irregular activities, Kweyama said the public broadcaster was seeking a legal opinion on the liability of Board members, officials, group executives and employees who participated in meetings where decisions were taken contrary to the policies of the Corporation, the Kind Code of Good Governance and the legislative framework governing the SABC.
While the Interim Board was also directed to expedite the filling of senior positions at the SABC, it was also asked to do an evaluation of the financial and legal implications of unilateral changes to policy.
Kweyama said the evaluation was on-going.
“Thus far, it has been established that the 90/10 local content directive has cost TV R183 million (unaudited) and radio R29 million (unaudited) loss in advertising revenue.
“These figures exclude the additional costs of R72 million for the replacement of local content and losses due to unused foreign rights already contracted,” she said.
On the recommendation for the SABC to adhere to the highest standards of editorial independence following allegations of intimidation against journalists, Kweyama said the Interim Board has held two sessions with the news department and stressed the importance of balanced reporting, as expected of a public broadcaster, and that journalists themselves should adhere to “credibility, professional standards and a culture which is designed to protect journalists against intimidation”.
SABC’s finances stabilising
Meanwhile, Kweyama said the public broadcaster’s finances were finally stabilising and that they were now managing their task of ensuring that salaries are paid and that creditors and service providers were being paid.
To this end, she said the Board has established a Payments and Commissioning Task Team, which looks at cash flow and the commissioning of contracts so that the public broadcaster does not commit itself to money it does not have, while also looking at prioritising payments of salaries, statutory payments and payments to service providers.
“I think we are pleased to say… that we have got some stability and that we have been able to pay salaries every month. We have been juggling robbing Peter to pay Paul as far as service providers go but I think even in that playing field, we are levelling out now that we no longer have threats of withdrawing content, of [strikes] in the SABC due to non-payment of service providers.
“We have reported to this committee that we found early on that we were probably not going to meet our bills as we intervene in the finances quite urgently.
“To this end, a task team was formed with the Department of Communications … to assist in applying for a guarantee.
“We understand that a decision is imminent and within a matter of days… we should be hearing about our application to National Treasury via the Department of Communications on the guarantee,” she said.