A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has revealed that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has spent a staggering R6 million on catering since 2018. See reply here.
As it stands the SABC has projected a budget shortfall of R1.5 billion due to a significant drop in advertising revenue as a result of the devastating economic impact of Covid-19.
It is also faced with a R700 million shortfall, separate from the R1.5 billion. The SABC was required to make a R700 million cut in staff costs as part of its turnaround strategy approved by National Treasury. The retrenchments process has thus far been rather chaotic. Should retrenchments be halted, the R700 million will have to come from National Treasury.
While R6 million may seem like a small amount in the greater scheme of financial trouble the SABC faces, this type of frivolous spending is indicative of a lack of firm austerity measures at the public broadcaster, needed to keep it afloat.
It is bizarre that the SABC is spending millions on what is possibly snacks for meetings while faced with grave financial anxiety not only from its top executives but staff afraid of being retrenched.
We would caution Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams not to see this as an opportunity to interfere in the affairs of the SABC. The law is clear, the board has the final authority on matters related to the public broadcaster.
The DA will also be requesting that at the next meeting in Parliament with the SABC’s board that it present a very clear and detailed map of its austerity measures. Any spending on catering must cease immediately.
Now more than ever, we need cool heads to prevail and for the SABC to adopt measures which are necessary to its financial recovery.
We cannot allow thousands to lose their jobs, while costs that could be put to better use elsewhere are misdirected.