A LACK of decisive, strong leadership was one of the fundamental deficiencies which led to profligate spending, lack of accountability and flouting of basic corporate governance principles within the SABC, a forensic investigation conducted by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe has found, writes Linda Ensor in Business Day.

As he noted in his report released yesterday, management has to “set the tone at the top”, leading by example, promoting ethical conduct and taking decisive action against any failure to comply with legislation, regulations and corporate policies.

However, at the SABC this leadership, oversight and monitoring was inadequate and led to procurement policies being flouted with impunity.

For example, seven contracts worth R174m were concluded without proper authorisation, and R112m was spent irregularly on the acquisition of international content, with waste occurring through double payments, overpayments, material paid for but not received, and so on. And even though alarm bells were rung about this, nothing was done by management to rectify it.

The auditor-general also discovered that former group CEO Dali Mpofu and former head of legal services Mafika Sihlali concluded a R326m contract with consultants to set up a technology programme management office when they had no authority to do so and had not obtained the authorisation of the board.

The probe instigated by Parliament’s communications committee revealed that 1465 employees had outside business interests contrary to company policy. Of these, 20 were involved in entities that had received payments from the SABC of about R3,4m. Abuse of petrol card benefits by top and senior managers was endemic.

Briefing the committee yesterday on the forensic investigation that spanned the period September 2007 to June this year, Nombembe said it focused on supply chain management issues, wasteful expenditure and human resource-related matters.

The lack of strong leadership “seems to have created a culture where management is not focused on public accountability or acting in the best interest of the SABC,” the report said.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.