The SABC irregularly appointed a company to help them sort out irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

This was the conclusion of MPs during Wednesday’s meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

The MPs wanted to call James Aguma, the SABC’s chief financial officer and acting chief executive, to account but he could not attend because he is ill. The MPs took a dim view of his absence.

The contract with SekelaXabiso is the subject of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, due by August, said Krish Naidoo, member of the interim SABC board.
The auditor general is also investigating.

SekelaXabiso, according to their website, prides itself “in applying international best practice to deliver rigorous internal audit, IT audit, forensic audit and business consulting services of the highest standards”, was appointed to sort out the public broadcaster’s irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the 2014-2015 financial year.

This was done despite the SABC having its own internal audit unit. The committee was told that the SABC had experienced internal capacity constraints.

Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said the SABC had a serious skills problem, as shown by an internal skills audit.

“As long as we don’t deal with the skills issue, we’ll continue to have problems,” she said.

‘We are dealing with criminality’
Initially, SekelaXabiso was granted a contract from April 7 to July 31 2015 for R4.7-million. Then there was a contract between December 1 2015 and July 31 2016 worth R10.4-million, followed by another contract from November 1 2016 to July 31 2017, worth R9.8-million.

The irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure continued, amounting to R5.1-billion for irregular expenditure and R74-million for fruitless and wasteful expenditure over the past five financial years.

MPs could not ascertain what exactly SekelaXabiso had done in return for all the money paid to the company.

ANC MP Ezekiel Kekana said it was clear that the contract was illegal.

Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees concurred: “I think we are dealing with criminality, to an extent that is unimaginable.” 

ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi said: “Aguma has run away from this meeting, because he knows Xabiso was a wrong appointment.”

ANC MP Vincent Smith said if the interim board allowed one more cent to be paid on this contract, they would fall foul of the Public Finance Management Act. “If you pay them, I will call for your dismissal. You’ll be delinquent directors.” 

‘Aguma must fall’
MPs were insistent that Aguma must come to Parliament to be held accountable – and not only about the SekelaXabiso contract.

Former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing relating to his bizarre press conference in April was also due to take place on Wednesday.

The deputy chairperson of the interim SABC board, Mathatha Tsedu, said Motsoeneng’s lawyers had provided them with an affidavit from Aguma in which he said he had given Motsoeneng permission to hold the April press conference and that the board had decided to take disciplinary steps against Motsoeneng. 

Tsedu said Aguma was at the board meeting where they decided to take these steps.

DA MP Tim Brauteseth said there should be disciplinary steps taken against Aguma for this. “Aguma must fall. Hashtag,” he said. “He didn’t have the courage to appear here.”

Dlodlo said she did not want to discuss disciplinary steps against executives in public.

Shortly after the meeting, Scopa chairperson Themba Godi released a press statement saying the committee was not taking Aguma’s absence lightly.

“This is particularly because Mr Aguma, as the current acting group chief executive officer, is responsible for most of the problematic contracts that have resulted to the amount of R5-billion in irregular expenditure.” – News24