Motsoeneng purged SABC staff – Madonsela

Former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Michel Bega

The SABC lost millions of rands as acting chief operations officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng purged senior staff, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.

Her latest report, titled “When governance and ethics fail”, indicates Motsoeneng’s involvement in the termination of numerous staffers’ services at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration courts and other platforms.

“Mr Motsoeneng’s actions in respect of the suspensions and terminations (listed in the report), where evidence clearly shows his irregular involvement, constitutes improper conduct, abuse of power and maladministration,” said Madonsela.

A lengthy list is given in the report, citing names of staff members who were elbowed out of the SABC. In some of the cases, the SABC offered the departing employees 12 months’ payments in settlement of disputes.

“The substantial amounts of money paid to SABC employees as settlements during protracted suspensions, terminations, or long, drawn-out labour dispute proceedings and litigation caused unnecessary and avoidable costs,” she said.

“The acts and omissions of the SABC management board in regard to the unnecessary and procedurally irregular suspensions, dismissals and forced resignations amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Such action constitutes improper conduct and maladministration.”

In the report, Madonsela also found former communications minister Dina Pule had interfered unduly in the affairs of the SABC during her tumultuous tenure.

“She acted improperly in the manner in which she rejected the recommendations made by the board for the appointment of a CFO (chief financial officer) and orchestrated the inclusion of Ms (Gugu) Duda’s CV (curriculum vitae). Her conduct amounts to abuse of power.

“Mr (Themba) Phiri (the communications department’s acting deputy director general) acted unlawfully in submitting Ms Duda’s CV to Mr Motsoeneng for her inclusion in the subsequent interview by the board.

“Mr Motsoeneng acted unlawfully by accepting the CV and ordering that Ms Duda be included and be interviewed after the selection process had been concluded,” said Madonsela.

Duda was appointed SABC CFO in February 2012.

Complaints against Motsoeneng were raised with Madonsela by former SABC staff — including former chief operations officer Charlotte Mampane and ex-SABC senior executive Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande.

On Monday, Madonsela recommended the SABC board initiate disciplinary measures against outgoing group chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo for her improper conduct in approving Motsoeneng’s irregular salary increases.

She urged the SABC board to issue public apologies to former employees, including Ntombela-Nzimande and Mampane, who suffered prejudice “due to the SABC management and board’s maladministration”.

Madonsela said the national broadcaster had been hounded by “pathological corporate governance deficiencies”.

She said allegations that Motsoeneng committed fraud by stating in his application form that he had completed matric at Metsimantsho High School in QwaQwa were also substantiated.

“By his own admission, Mr Motsoeneng stated in his application form that he had passed matric, filled in made-up symbols in the same application form, and promised to supply a matric certificate to confirm his qualifications when he knew he did not have the promised certificate. [This] was admitted by him during an interview.

“Mr Motsoeneng would have never been appointed in 1995 had he not lied about his qualification and… he repeated that lie in 2003 when he applied for the post of executive producer: current affairs to which he accordingly should have never been appointed,” said Madonsela.

She said it was worrying that Motsoeneng’s file “disappeared” at the SABC amid his denial of falsifying qualifications.

“At one point he used the absence of evidence to support his contention that there was no evidence of his alleged fraudulent misrepresentation.

“The circumstantial evidence points to a motive on his part although incontrovertible evidence to allow a definite conclusion that he did in fact cause the disappearance of his employment records, particularly his application forms and CV, could not be found.”

She said Motsoeneng’s appointment was, therefore, irregular. Madonsela also noted a crooked pattern in his salary progression.

“The allegation that Mr Motsoeneng’s salary progression was irregular is substantiated in that he received salary appraisals three times in one year as alleged, hiking his salary as executive manager [for] stakeholder relations from R1.5 million to R2.4 million.

“His salary progression as the acting COO concomitantly rose irregularly from R122,961 to R211,172 (a 63 percent increase) in 12 months and was in violation of the SABC personnel regulations and constitutes improper conduct and maladministration,” she said.

– Sapa

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