Director-General on National Arts Council Report: deliberation

Arts and Culture

08 June 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

8 June 2004

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Chairperson: Mrs M Njobe (ANC)

The Department Director-General continued to give feedback on the current situation in the National Arts Council (NAC). The Committee was informed of the status of proceedings against certain members of the NAC Board, including the currently suspended CEO. A report would be issued shortly on the outcome of investigations into the mismanagement of funds. The Director-General also confronted issues surrounding the delay of certain matters, which had resulted from the NAC disciplinary hearings,and fielded questions and concerns raised by the Committee.

Professor I Mosala, Director-General of the Department of Arts and Culture, explained that the NAC had been established in 1997 by the Department of Arts and Culture, through the National Arts and Culture Act. A Board had been established to oversee its work of the NAC. The new, second Board was elected last year in May.

Professor Mosala pointed out that within the broad Arts and Culture portfolio, the arts was only one component. For instance, 'Heritage' had accounted for 62% and 58% of the budget in 2003 and 2004 respectively. It was not always understood that the NAC was only one of over 25 associated art and cultural institutions to which the Department distributed funds. This year R44 million would be distributed. The NAC fulfilled both an advisory role and a funding function, and was a policy instrument. The NAC Board was elected via a lengthy process of consultation with an extensive panel of people. This process was usually be led by a judge. Candidates were nominated, interviewed and selected. The list was then presented to the Minister and then Cabinet for approval. Cabinet did not have to approve the list and there had been instances where candidates had been rejected.

Professor Mosala said the problems experienced at the NAC were issues of governance, a by-product of change, and that similar challenges faced other departments. Consequently, an independent governance cluster had been established. The imperatives of transformation had created a tension between the need to appoint representative "new blood" and have experienced "old hands" to manage the process. Previously, most of the Arts experienced by the public majority had not been funded by the government and the Department had to become a conduit for radical innovation.

Professor Mosala emphasised that the Executive of the Board always needed to be open to scrutiny. Boardmembers were individually and severally accountable for appropriate management and distribution of resources. According to the policy framework, the Board was an autonomous governing body that advised the Minister and was responsible for running the NAC. Accounting function was the Director General's function, and that the Minister's role was to ensure that political objectives were attained.

Last year the CEO had been suspended on allegations of fund mismanagement, together with four other Boardmembers. Price Waterhouse Coopers Ltd. had conducted a forensic audit. The Minister suggested that the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Department temporarily fill the CEO position but the Board decided not to follow this recommendation. They appointed their own replacement. Professor Mosala added that the Department had requested that the investigation be concluded timeously. A draught report was released by Price Waterhouse and Cooper, which resulted in disciplinary hearings. These hearings would be finalised in June It had been decided in the interim not to release the draught report to the public. The final report had now been released and been submitted to the Minister. Once he had met with the NAC, the report would be released to the Committee as well as to the public. He expressed his regret that proceedings had taken so long to finalise.

The NAC had been criticised for delaying applications to the Grahamstown Festival to such an extent that artists would not have enough time to prepare themselves adequately. The NAC had acknowledged this but unfortunately the investigation and the hearings had taken precedence. Furthermore, allegations made on the impact that the affairs of the NAC might have on international funding, were largely unfounded, since the Department received funding directly and not through the NAC. Professor Mosala assured the Members that the Department had been in constant contact with funding partners over this period. In one instance the Department had felt it necessary to transfer Swedish funding from the NAC back to the Department, as it had involved a suspended Boardmember.

Professor Mosala suggested that poor governance was largely to blame for the recent spate of suspensions at theatres, and that a governance unit had been set up by the Department to improve management skills. New appointees had in many cases not had the opportunity to learn the skills required. On many occasions, well-respected artists had been appointed as CEOs, only to find themselves ill-equipped for the task. The Department had learned from their mistakes and in future such people should rather fulfil the role of Artistic Directors.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) believed this was a crisis and asked why rectification had been so slow, and whether the autonomy of the Board should be unlimited. He proposed that a list of the Boardmembers, together with their Curriculum Vitae, be submitted to the Committee.

Ms H Mpaka (ANC) asked whether applicants to the Grahamstown Festival had been notified of the delay and whether the Festival would be postponed. She also asked if the entire Board had been involved in the disciplinary hearings.

Mrs T Tshivhase asked in whether the Department had considered rural people.

Mr B Solo (ANC) saw no reason why the work of the NAC should be delayed by internal investigations. The Department should have intervened earlier and NAC Boardmembers should have been here to present their side of the matter. Mrs Njobe assured Members that they would have the opportunity to address Boardmembers shortly.

Mrs M Mdlalose (IFP) asked whether the autonomy of such bodies as the NAC had been overextended and whether the Department had taken too long to respond to the problem.

Mrs N Mbombo (ANC) asked what transformation had taken place in the Arts.

Professor Mosala reiterated that these institutions had been established by an Act of Parliament, which gave them certain rights. Intervention by the Department would mean an infringement of democracy. With democracy came accountability, and so the Department had intervened and why the Boards of the associated institutions had Department representation. The Minister had intervened previously in the matter of the State Theatre and that the Department had been taken to task for it. He agreed, however, that the work of the NAC should not have suffered as a result of internal affairs.

On the question of Board representivity, Professor Mosala assured Members that this aspect had been taken very seriously. The NAC did not only fund urban-based groups. The extension of funding to previously neglected areas of the sector had resulted in clashes among management. The budgetary allocation received did not cover even half of the needs of this sector, and that this also had been the cause of much conflict between institutions vying for limited resources. Better and more funding would go a long way to alleviating the problem.

Professor Mosala doubted whether the Department was in crisis, but saw it more as a serious challenge. The report had made some shocking revelations, such as the incidence of 'ghost artists' and other instances of mismanagement.

Mr Khumalo felt that the occurrence of 'ghost artists' constituted a crisis, and asked whether any legal action had been taken against the suspended Boardmembers. He asked how the 25 associated institutions were being monitored, in terms of distribution of funds.

Professor I Mohamed (ANC) expressed his dismay that governance seemed to be a problem endemic throughout government.

Mr Solo asked about the length of the contract under which the suspended CEO had been employed, and whether she was still receiving a salary, regardless of how long the matter had taken to finalise.

Professor Mosala replied that the CEO had been employed on a permanent basis. Applications for the Grahamstown Festival would be accepted until 12 June and artists would be notified the next day whether they had been successful. He was unaware of whether all stakeholders had been informed about the delay. The new Board had started operating in May last year and the Department had responded to apparent irregularities in October. With regard to legal action being taken against Members, he said that the report would clarify all these issues. He accepted that lengthy suspensions were a waste of already scarce resources and that such a situation was undesirable. He had not wished to create the impression that all of government was rife with problems of governance, but that the government had recognised it as a major priority. Monitoring of the institutions was co-ordinated at a departmental level.

Mrs Njobe commented that perhaps legislation was due for review regarding the establishment of these institutions. She raised the matter of inadequate funding again, even now that the Department had been separated form the Department of Science and Technology. She hoped that this would change in the future, as the disparities in the sector were still great. Capacitating those who had been previously disadvantaged by the system was a positive step.

Mr Sonto asked how the Department intended to promote indigenous languages, as this was an aspect of liberty itself.

Mr Moonsamy provided the definition of crisis as "a time of acute difficulty and danger".

Professor Mosala commented that multi-lingualism was not the responsibility of his Department, but that he agreed with the sentiment expressed.

The meeting was adjourned.



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