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Top arts council officials charged: Covid-19 relief forensic report unveiled

Artists protested outside the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture in Pretoria recently to hand over a memo of demands. These included making available the PESP report.
Artists protested outside the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture in Pretoria recently to hand over a memo of demands. These included making available the PESP report.
Image: Julia Evans/GROUND UP

While no funds are missing from the artists' Covid-19 relief fund, there was a lack of oversight resulting in an over-commitment of R428m — double the available funds — and a conflict of interest among some former members of the National Arts Council.

This is contained in a forensic report on the implementation of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) by the council.

Artists have staged several protests demanding to know the outcome of the forensic investigation.

According to a statement by the NAC released late on Saturday night, the delay in releasing the report was due to “critically considering” what was in the public interest, while ensuring the release did not violate parties affected by the investigation.

The council's CEO Rosemary Mangope and CFO Clifton Changfoot were suspended in March pending an investigation into the management of the funds.

Without elaborating on the details, the weekend statement said: “The CEO and CFO have been charged.”

Some of the findings revealed in the report are that there were:

  • Several irregularities including financial mismanagement, process irregularities and lack of adequate oversight.
  • Conflict of interest was found “in respect of some former council members [for] failing to declare their directorship in companies that applied to the PESP.”
  • Failure to take effective and appropriate steps to prevent irregularities in the adjudication process, including irregular spending.
  • Failure to provide financial oversight regarding the implementation of the PESP within the allocated budget of R285m, resulting in an over-commitment amount of R428m (more than double the allocated budget).

The report confirmed that all funds have been accounted for at the NAC.

Newly appointed council members (from January 1) were all cleared of any wrongdoing.

In addition, the report confirmed the findings of the state law attorneys stating that newly appointed council members whose organisations had applied for the PESP could not have been conflicted as they had not commenced their appointment at the NAC at the time of applying and completion of adjudication.

The report comes after a media briefing held by the minister of sport, arts and culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and NAC chairperson Princess Celenhle Dlamini on September 27 where they announced the preliminary findings of the report.

Saturday's statement said the NAC has taken the findings in the forensic report “seriously and are committed to ensuring that all resources required are allocated to restoring strong internal processes and controls, capacitating council members to effectively discharge their fiduciary duties and ensuring the promotion of good governance within the organisation. This is so the entity is never faced with this type of maladministration again.

“Since the media briefing, the NAC and the DSAC, have been inundated with requests from various industry formations, including those mentioned in the report, for it to be released to the public and to those implicated in the findings ... After seeking legal advice, the NAC resolved to release the report to the public.

“Due consideration has been taken to ensure that those mentioned in the report are informed of the process that the NAC is undertaking prior to its release.

“The release of the report to the public is preceding the official commencement of the implementation of the recommendations as contained in the report. The CEO and CFO have been charged.”

The NAC said it will provide updates on the implementation of the recommendations of the forensic report, “where necessary”.

“Until such time that the NAC has completed its action on the recommendations, we appeal to those who may have an interest in the outcome and the execution of the recommendations to please allow the NAC to implement and complete the process without excessive interference.” 

TimesLIVE

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