FORMER SABC employees have a private greeting. When they meet in the street and greet each other it has become an unwritten rule to express relief at having escaped the chaos of "awkward park".

FORMER SABC employees have a private greeting. When they meet in the street and greet each other it has become an unwritten rule to express relief at having escaped the chaos of "awkward park".

Those who have not been lucky enough to find employment elsewhere often answer that apart from the nonsense at the SABC they are fine.

These are hard-working men and women who have no interest in politics but want to ply their trade and produce quality programming.

That is the tragedy of the public broadcaster: talented professionals, who understand the public broadcaster's mandate and wake up every morning in pursuit thereof, are being compromised by a flawed and arrogant leadership.

Decisions made by high-profile managers who do not have the foggiest notion of journalism and broadcasting have led to an exodus of talent and created a stressful work environment for those who are still committed to the SABC.

And in the process South African citizens, especially those who rely on the public broadcaster as their only source of information and entertainment, have been short-changed.

For the past few years the SABC has been floundering in a morass of mismanagement and wasteful expenditure.

This week auditor-general Terence Nombebe released a report detailing widespread graft and a lack of accountability. No one is surprised since this was predicted a while back.

Instead of taking responsibility for profligate spending some SABC bosses blame the current financial crisis.

The forensic investigation report clearly states that the fundamental problem is a "culture where management is not focused on public accountability or acting in the best interest of the SABC".

Nombebe rightly points out that the solution must come from management itself and can only be achieved by "setting the tone at the top".

The rot in Auckland Park really runs deep. We want to know how it is possible to conclude contracts worth millions without proper authorisation.

While local producers battled to pitch their ideas and secure funding, the SABC spent millions on the acquisition of international content that was never delivered. This is the 21st century in which the financial systems of any organisation must be sophisticated and modern. But not at the public broadcaster, where double payments and overpayments are the order of the day.

Fasten your seat belts - it gets worse.

Some clever people in management decided that the solution to this wasteful expenditure was to spend millions on consultants for sound advice on how to cut costs.

It's like spending a lot of money on a fancy watch and handing it over to someone else to tell you what time it is. And you have to pay every time you ask for the time.

It was also revealed -and not for the first time - that 1465 employees had outside business interests contrary to company policy.

Some of these were involved in businesses that received money from the SABC. There were also expensive overseas trips and golf days that had nothing to do with promoting public broadcasting. Current managers cannot spin their way out of this mess.

Embattled acting CEO Gab Mampone admitted that "it is no surprise that the situation regressed to a point of a financial crisis because right at the top, at the executive and board level, some of these transgressions were patently propagated".

It does not help to gloat over the muddle in which our public broadcaster finds itself. We all have a stake in the SABC and it is too important for us to give up on it.

A viable, healthy broadcaster that produces quality programming is vital to furthering democracy and education.

Greedy managers are the biggest obstacle to this endeavour and they must go. Former and current ANC leaders must also take responsibility for the darkness that has fallen on the SABC. By treating a national asset as a playground where scores are settled, they pushed it into the abyss.

South Africa is not short of professionals from across the socio-political spectrum who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and propel the SABC to greater heights.