Department of Sport, Arts and Culture on COVID 19 relief fund: Follow up with Minister

Sports, Arts and Culture

20 May 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Joint Meeting: Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture and Select Committee on Education and

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture explained the criteria for access to its Covid-10 relief fund. These were the loss of income due to cancelled events or projects because of the national lockdown, the loss of income to athletes and arts-practitioners who were confirmed to participate in events that had been cancelled, and the provision of financial support for digital proposals that provided an alternative to conventional presentation platforms. Applicants needed to provide evidence of bookings and cancellation, and also had to be tax compliant.

Some of the rules for the sports grant were that incomplete forms would lead to disqualification. False information would be regarded as fraud, and only applicants affected by an event or events cancelled for the period from 16 March to the end of June need apply. Payments had been disbursed to 282 successful applicants, and unsuccessful applicants had been informed of the outcome and the process of appeal.

For DSAC funded projects, the application criteria involved submission of documentation that did not deviate from the existing memorandum of agreement (MOA) requirements, and submission of supporting documentation such as cancellation letters and proof of payments made to artists/participants/service providers.

For non-DSAC funded projects, for cancelled productions or projects to be considered for relief assistance, the criteria to be met involved productions with a national footprint, or collaborative projects which already had existing partnerships or had the potential to attract other funders. Compensation would be considered for the period from April to June.

The Committee asked about the various categories, what the minimum and maximum payments were in each case, and what informed the amount. How did the contributions per province work? How much had the Department paid out to athletes and other artists?

Members wanted an update on was being done about South African performers stranded in Turkey. How much were adjudicators paid, and how were they chosen? What happened if some applicants had received money from another source, like Multichoice? Did rejected applicants get reasons for their unsuccessful applications? What oversight mechanism would be used to monitor payments? They asked the Minister to provide payments lists and information on how much money had been paid out.

Meeting report

Minister’s introductory comments

Mr Nkosinathi Mthethwa, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, said that the Committee and Department must play a role in ensuring that the flattening of the curve was not abandoned at any stage. Government’s attitude should be guided by what was happening in the country, with spikes and death seen in certain provinces. The government was grappling with this and discussing approaches post Covid-19. Things would not be the same and the recession might turn into a depression. The approach emphasised that people should stay at home as much as possible and sanitise hands and public spaces, as well as wear masks. The government was worried, having been told by scientists and epidemiologists that the winter season would be tough, and was being guided by evidence on how the spread could be contained. The government was looking at hotspots, and may have a situation where different areas were at different lockdown levels. This applied to the sport, arts and culture sector as well.

The Department had looked at the current situation and on how to respond with relief interventions. Whatever the relief, it had to be shared among outlets and artists. The concern was that the needy would be forgotten. Fortunately, when the Department interacted with the industry, there was agreement that the needy would be assisted with funds.

Department of Sport, Arts and Culture: Covid-19 relief

Mr Vusi Mkhize, Director-General (DG), Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC), took the Committee through the presentation, which was in two parts -- for sports, and for art and culture.

Sports

For sports, the criteria for the relief fund were loss of income due to cancelled events or projects because of the national lockdown, loss of income to athletes and arts-practitioners who were confirmed to participate in events that had been cancelled, and financial support to digital proposals that provide an alternative to conventional presentation platforms. Athletes, as well as their coaches and technical support responsible for the athletes, who were confirmed to participate in events that had been cancelled, needed to provide the Department with proof of booking and cancellation, and their taxes must be in order.

Athletes on the Operation Excellence Programme were also eligible to apply for the relief funding. Athletes who had not earned the status of being national athletes may be catered for by their provinces, based on the provincial criteria. The Department reserved the right to determine the quantum of relief and to conduct verification and due diligence prior to providing the relief. This relief was guided by Schedule 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The Department had created a special email account for its interaction with the sector related to joint efforts in responding and collaborating, to combat and minimise the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This would be a platform where all would share ideas and own interventions in assisting artists and athletes to weather the current conditions.

Rules of the Grant:

  • Only applicants affected by an event or events cancelled for the period 16 March to end June 2020.
  • Incomplete forms shall result in immediate disqualification.
  • Registered businesses and their employees may not qualify for this Relief. They may explore other relief interventions available to businesses and labour.
  • Provision of false information would be treated as fraud and dealt with through the appropriate criminal justice system.
  • Submission deadline was 6 April.

An adjudication panel had finalised adjudication in two sittings and had considered applications in four categories: approved, conditionally approved, declined with recommendations, and declined. Payments had been disbursed to 282 successful applicants, and unsuccessful applicants had been informed of the outcomes and process of appeal.

Arts and Culture

DSAC Funded Projects Category

This involved projects that had to be cancelled where a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) existed, and tranche payments were yet to be made. The following criteria would apply:

  • Submit documentation that does not deviate from the existing MOA requirements (narrative report, invoices, valid compliance documents etc.)
  • Supporting documents, such as cancellation letters, proof of payments made to artists/participants/service providers etc. involved, and proof of contracts and payment due for approved projects without a signed MOA but with a grant letter. All valid compliance documents and action plans (April – June) should be submitted.

Non- DSAC Funded Projects Category

For cancelled productions, projects or events to be considered for the relief assistance, submissions would be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Projects or events with a national footprint (involving creative participation from various provinces) particularly those that were submitted by national industry organisations.
  •  Compensation would be considered for the period April to June on collaborative projects which already had existing partnerships, or had thr potential to attract other funders or investors

Adjudication

An independent panel of 30 adjudicators had been appointed by the Minister to adjudicate over the 3 346 applications received. There were eight panels of adjudicators appointed from the sector. Of the 3 346 received, 2 990 had been for the COVID-19 relief, while 353 had been for digital applications. There were three applications for sport that had been misdirected by applicants to the Arts & Culture email. These had been referred to the Sports panel. So far, 2 671 applications had been processed, with the balance of the applications to be completed by the end of this week -- Friday 22 May. In the event that their applications are unsuccessful, all unsuccessful applicants are duly advised about the appeal procedure. In the event that they wish to exercise this right, there was an independent panel that would be starting to adjudicate over the appeals within the week of 17 May 2020.

Progress with adjudication

So far, 985 applications had been recommended and 409 had been paid. To date, 587 appeals had been captured. The appeals committee held their first sitting on 18 May, where 57 appeals were considered and 29 were successful.

Due to extraordinary circumstances, due dates for applications had to involve a short turnaround time. This had affected the quality of applications, and other measures had had to be devised to attend to this. Technology must be explored to expedite the electronic submission and subsequent management of applications. Access to the most disadvantaged must be a priority. Any disclaimers /declarations needed to be included in the terms and conditions.

Discussion

Mr M Seabi (ANC) said he did not see the R150 million spoken of in the slides, and asked for clarity. The 150 million was not directed to individual applicants, so how did one divide it according to different sectors? On the various categories, what was the minimum and maximum payment in each case, and what informed that amount? How did contributions per province work? How much had the Department paid out to athletes and other artists?

Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) said that the real artists were suffering, and people were abusing the money. What was the embassy in Turkey doing to bring South Africans back home? Why was Arthur Mafokate conducting interviews on radio and benefiting from the fund? The beneficiaries were not reflecting the country’s demographics, because there were mostly white people. This was not a normal situation and it could not be treated as such. Hopefully, the columns would reflect those who were in need.

Mr W Faber (DA) said that Mr Madlingozi’s comments on race were his perception, and that he should go through the whole list. Disaster hits everyone. Page nine of the presentation referred to companies, and then a few pages later the rules spoke of registered businesses. So if companies could apply, why were businesses excluded? How much were adjudicators paid, and who had put them there? The Department spoke of the Operation Excellence (OPEX) programme and hopefuls -- who decided who these hopefuls were, and were they paid R20 000 per athlete?

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked whether the Department had met with outside communities. The list received was very questionable. Arthur Mafokate had said he had received money, yet his name was not on the list. With the number of applications, how many had qualified for R20 000? It seemed there were two lists, and this made oversight difficult. The fact that two lists existed would not only hinder the work of the Portfolio Committee, but would weaken the credibility of the entire process and fuel the debate among athletes and artists who were already doubting the manner in which the process had been carried out. On slide 35, it was unlikely that there was a provider. He did not believe that the Department was telling the truth. Why had the Minister not been responding to his e-mails?

Ms V Van Dyk (DA) said that only 279 sports applications had been approved, and that was a great concern. The closing date might have to be reconsidered. How was funding spread out across the provinces? Slide 35 was problematic. What was the allocation per application? Were the 408 that were paid on appeal included in the total number of applications, or were they an addition to the existing number? When was the email address established, because people were complaining about the system? Many people did not have access to “drop-off” or “we-share,” as well as the internet, so how would they be assisted? Was it only cancelled projects that received money?

Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) asked whether Multichoice was paying actors who were involved in their projects throughout the lockdown. What happened if some applicants received money from Multichoice? The government had some limitations on the relief it could provide -- had that been adequately communicated to the people? There were individuals that were in other forms of business, but were actors as well -- what mechanisms were in place to ensure that people were not doubly benefiting? A summary of the database would assist the Committee going forward, so it was vital to have it. With money provision, greed had a way of showing its ugly head, and people with proximity to politicians thought they were better. Good intentions should not be overshadowed by greed. People must meet the criteria that satisfied the Department.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) said he was concerned about the information gaps regarding outlets and artists in rural areas. Looking at the websites of federations, there was no information on how outlets could access these funds. How did the Department ensure that outlets which meet the criteria got information? What kind of support services was it offering? It had many confusing lists, so it needed to provide an authentic list of beneficiaries and those who had been rejected. Were reasons for rejection given?

Mr B Luthuli (IFP) asked who the agencies were, and why they had been selected. What oversight mechanism would be used to monitor payment? Would the minister provide payment lists and information on what money had been paid out?

The Chairperson said that the Department and the collective gave adequate information. There was a need to assist in the rural areas, as some people did not have enough time or digital equipment. She suspected that MultiChoice did not account to the Department, so they would have to talk directly to them.

Department’s response

The Minister responded that the list would be made available today. The Department was not hiding anything, and was obliged to comply.

Regarding the Chairperson’s question, when the national state of disaster was announced, everything was done to secure funds and to lessen the impact of the virus, with 90 days in mind. The period given for applications was not lengthy, and some could not apply. Some of those who were initially rejected had now been approved.

On the rural issue, the Department was engaging with Members of Executive Councils (MECs), and it had been agreed that they would secure resources in their respective provinces. R61 million had been made available to outlets and artists. The number of adjudicators had been expanded to 15 in order to fast track the process, and to ensure that they paid attention to detail. It was all within the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and regulations of the National Treasury.

Responding to Mr Mhlongo, he said when questions were posed his way, he never missed deadlines, and answered all of them.

On reopening sports, the sporting fraternity had been engaged. The Department had developed a framework for reopening contact and non-contact sports, and had escalated it to the Command Council. Submissions had been last week to the Council to open non-contact sports.

He said broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) codes applied to any public event. Any law passed by Parliament finds its basis from the White Paper, and the White Paper from this sector had been reviewed for the past three years, and was endorsed in February this year. It was the first of its kind. To further regulate sub-sectors, it was the duty of Parliament to pass laws which would ensure that this aspect of the economy was taken on board.

Ms Sumayya Khan, Deputy Director General: Recreation Development and Sport Promotion: Programme 2, DSAC, said the sport funding process could not be punitive. The adjudication committee used its discretion, based on the environment. 91% of the funding had been paid. 93 applications had been paid by 25 April.

On OPEX and hopefuls, the criteria did not cater only for athletes and coaches -- loss of income due to cancellations was also considered. Funding was limited, and the criteria stated that the Department would determine the quantum of funding available.

Mr Mkhize said that the R150 million that was not reflected was based on applications received. Sport relief was far less than arts and culture. Actual payments for sports amounted to R5.5 million, and arts and culture was R5.8 million. However, contracts awarded amounted to R3.29 million. Digital applications would likely increase the number to R26 million.

The minimum award in arts and culture was R20 000, and if the applicant required less, they got 100% of what they asked for. The threshold in the industry was R75 000. This was based on industry norms.

The Minister provided the Committee with the amounts available in the provinces. The Western Cape had R7 million, North West R9.5 million, Northern Cape R3.58 million, Mpumalanga R3 million, Limpopo R8 million, KZN 3.7 million, Gauteng R28 million, Free State R12.5 million and the Eastern Cape R15 million.

Regarding repatriations, the Department was working with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to repatriate South Africans with no means to return home. DIRCO was working to assist not only those in Turkey, but South Africans across the board, and it was not limited to creative people.

On unions recruiting people, a database would be provided. Anyone who tried recruiting people by using Covid-19 would face the consequences. The Department had not received such a complaint.

On the Mafokate matter, no service provider was barred from an open tender process unless they were blacklisted. The Department would not go against the PFMA. There were three different service providers involved in the process.

Referring to tax clearances, he said the government did not do business with people who were not tax compliant.

He answered Mr Faber’s reference to criteria contradictions, and said if one read the rules properly, they stated ‘may,’ and not ‘will not.’

On how much was paid, payments were made according to rates and regulations, and not per the Department’s own rates. One should not rely on social media for the list -- only accept a list that came from the Department.

Mr Mhlongo asked for a list indicating how many people had received R20 000.

Mr Mkhize said that the list would be provided, but first wanted to ensure that it was accurate. He said Ladysmith Black Mambazo had not been paid R20 million.

Ms Van Dyk’s calculations were accurate. The list of digital people and adjudicators was being finalised this week.

On the appeal process, there were nine panellists and amongst them were people in the industry and advocates by their profession. The Department was not involved with Multichoice.

The Department would work on the information gaps, and the federations would not mind providing information. The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) had a team that would look into what they were asking for, and assess whether it was doable.

Mr Mhlongo said that the Minister was hiding behind the White Paper.

Mr Madlingozi asked whether no other laws had been waived during the pandemic. If so, why did people have to be tax compliant?

The Chairperson said the Committee would still engage with the Department. Further questions could be submitted in writing.

The meeting was adjourned.

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