The Playhouse Company, & Performing Arts of Free State: Strategic Plan & Budgets

Arts and Culture

20 May 2008
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Meeting Summary

Delegates from the Playhouse Company in Kwazulu Natal and Performing Arts Council of Free State (PACOFS) tabled their strategic plans and budgets for 2008/09.

The Playhouse was a cultural institution that aimed to facilitate and promote artistic works that were representative of the diverse South African artistic and cultural heritage. The different projects included the Traditional Arts Festival, and the Women’s Arts Festival. The main aim in service delivery was to provide skills that would empower all staff and enhance the standard of operational procedures and systems. The strategic objectives of all aspects of productions and management were outlined. The Playhouse aimed to make efficient and effective use of all the resources, and the financial figures were tabled. The annual performance plan was set out. The initiatives aimed to have a positive impact on society, with empowerment of youth and women, creation of jobs and promotion of arts and culture. Members expressed appreciation for the presentation and stated the importance of supporting indigenous music and culture. They asked whether bursaries were made available, whether counselling was available, and whether the Playhouse could do anything to assist the families of indigent artists who had died. The safety and repair work to the building was queried, and it was mentioned that all relevant expenditure should be shown in the presentation. There were some areas still to be clarified.

The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State indicated that there were numerous challenges over the past years. The Centre had originally been well established and well resourced. It relied heavily on allocations from the Department and departmental grants. In 2006/7 it was faced with a claim for outstanding electricity charges over 7 years to the tune of
R5 million. After a forensic investigation was instituted, three senior staff members were suspended, of whom two had subsequently been dismissed and another reached a settlement. The total cost of the investigation and related legal fees was R5.6 million. There had been further resignations of senior staff which, although leading to some savings on salaries, meant that the current staff were stretched in their duties. PACOFS was showing a financial deficit of R10.9 million. Steps were under way to fill the posts, which were presently filled by Acting appointees, and the Minister had to appoint a new Board, which would pursue whether the disciplinary findings should form the basis of a criminal charge. There was no proper artistic budget as funds that would normally be used for artistic projects were used to pay for the forensic investigations and the legal fees. The Centre hoped to continue as an exponent of arts and culture in the Free State and continue to play a role in co-presenting festivals. Members were concerned at the challenges. Questions were raised around the reasons for the dismissals, the reasons for resignations, whether any orders had been made in respect of legal costs, an explanation of the deficit and the reasons why there was a dispute around electricity. The MEC of the Province said that the Centre continued to be an asset and suggested that the results of the forensic report be made available. He appealed to the Committee to assist in changing around the situation at the Centre.


Meeting report

The Playhouse Company (Playhouse): Strategic Plan and Budget 2008/09
Ms Linda Bukhosini, Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director, The Playhouse Company; and Mr Govan Pillay, Chief Financial Officer, The Playhouse Company, delivered the joint presentation to the Committee. Ms Bukhosini noted that the Playhouse was a cultural institution that aimed to facilitate and promote artistic works that were representative of the diverse South African artistic and cultural heritage. The focal point in this year was on the institutional capacity of human resources.

The different projects that had been earmarked by the Playhouse included the Traditional Arts Festival which showcased the diverse cultural spectrum that was present in KZN and South Africa as a whole. The Women’s Arts Festival was aimed at promoting the expression of women and their roles as artists, which in effect advocated the rights of women through the media and also promoted discourse about the productions of women artists.

In terms of service delivery, the main objectives were to provide skills that would empower all their staff and enhance the standard of operational procedures and systems.

The presentation also highlighted strategic objectives regarding marketing of productions, management, sound, lighting and finances.

With regard to finances, the goals of the Playhouse were to ensure that efficient and effective use of all the resources was made to complement all other departments in making the Playhouse a success. Financial figures were set out in the attached presentation.

The presentation also contained an annual performance plan that looked at the different productions that were planned. The initiatives of the Playhouse were described as commendable in that they positively impacted on society, with the empowerment of the youth and women. Jobs were created across all regions of Kwazulu Natal (KZN) as even the mobile productions would take off. Most importantly, the Playhouse had managed to achieve significant promotion of arts and culture in this region.

Mr M Bhengu (IFP) stated the importance of supporting indigenous music and culture. He noted that with the upcoming 2010 World Cup, South African indigenous arts and culture would be at the forefront. He also stated that many nations had pride in and an appreciation of their culture, such as the Indians. Africans too needed to invest in their culture, embracing their indigenous song and dance and supporting it – with such matters as “ukugiya”, which was in effect a demonstration of gratitude to the ancestors with regard to the support that they had given. This was where the Playhouse Committee could play an integral role.

Ms Bukhosini said that most productions in the rural areas would be taken through from the City of Durban, which serviced the entire KZN region. She noted that productions were performed all over, using mobile stages, or schools in the eleven districts. There were constraints of time and money and cooperation with municipalities. The aim was, however, to achieve easy access to artistic services for every citizen. The Department of Education was also involved.

In relation to the Traditional Arts Festival, she explained that this came from rural areas and at the moment there appeared to be no vacancies for any more artists as the different institutions had to be restricted. The Playhouse thus facilitated such happenings as “ukugiya”.

The Chairperson quipped that there seemed to be too much emphasis on the Zulu culture, and agreed that this was true of all cultures, including Venda and Sotho. 

Mr B Zulu (ANC) asked whether the Playhouse made any provisions for bursaries to be available to upcoming artists.

Ms Bukhosini also pointed out that there were no bursaries on offer and this was because the Playhouse was not mandated to do so. There existed no specific programme aimed at poverty alleviation but social coercion aimed towards doing this. She stated that programmes sought to deal with matters of empowerment of the youth and women, and also the prospects of job creation.

Mr Bhengu noted that the presentation had demonstrated the impact of social cohesion in the structural plan.

Mr Bhengu noted that the CFO had stated that it was necessary to consider the issue of making counselling available.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) added that while studying the Annual Report, she had realised that there was still safety and repair work being done to the building, even after four years, and she asked whether Department of Public Works was involved in this structural safety work.

Ms Bukhosini responded that the repairs and maintenance were being done to the building as a result of the building’s age, and it would prove to become an ongoing activity. The Department of Public works would be of assistance. More funding was needed to look after the infrastructure of the building and the salaries of the maintenance workers.

Ms D Ramodibe (ANC) raised the sad fact that many artists would die with very little in their estates for their families, and asked if the Playhouse could assist at all in such issues.

Ms Bukhosini said that once again the Playhouse was restricted in its mandate. It could not disburse any funds to the estates, but could promote programmes that would promote the arts, and therefore artists. In many cases the Playhouse had received requests to allow benefit or tribute concerts or performances in the Playhouse building, and this had in every case been allowed.

Ms Ramodibe said that the budget should indicate all expenditure, so that the Committee had a clearer picture of what was going on, and that it should give a comparison with previous expenditure.

Ms Bukhosini replied that in the financial year all the queries of the Auditor General were addressed, and all expenditure could be fully justified by the Chief Financial Officer.
Ms N Mbombo (ANC) added that the presentation was admirable but needed further clarification on what had been addressed on page 6. She also noted that the promotion of the arts should be an initiative to represent all groups in South Africa, and not just specifically Zulu and Indian cultures.

The Chairperson commended the representatives of the Playhouse Co. and added that there were a few areas of uncertainty that still needed to be clarified and investigated.

Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) Strategic Plan and Budget
The delegation from PACOFS included Mr ES Magashule, MEC for Arts of the Free State, Mr Paul Moeketsane, Acting CEO of PACOFS, and the Acting Artistic Director.
Mr Paul Moeketsane stated that in the past PACOFS had been a well-established and well-resourced institution. However, this would not be apparent in his presentation. During the financial year
2007/2008 PACOFS had a salary budget component of approximately 65% of the total grant that was received from the National Department of Arts & Culture (DAC). However, PACOFS had then received a letter from the Department of Public Works relating to unpaid electricity services, between the period 2001 and 2008, totaling around R5 million. A forensic investigation was instituted, and the costs of this, together with the legal fees that ensued, ran to a further R5, 6 million. Another factor that had increased spending in this area was the pension liability, which increased during the previous financial year by R3, 3 million. All of these factors contributed to a financial deficit of R10, 9 million. 

The PACOFS Board and management decided to change this state of affairs and had implemented stringent and inflexible financial discipline. The financial department was to start budgeting for electricity. A conservative approach in all procurement, to eradicate the deficit, was thus adopted.

The Board, in pursuance of good corporate governance, had requested that the forensic investigation just referred to be conducted, due to problems of maladministration. In April 2007 three senior PACOFS officials were served with suspension notices in anticipation of further investigations. They were Dr. Nathan Bagarette, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Steven Murison, the Acting Chief Financial Officer and Mr Johnny Jansen, the Manager for Human Resources. Dr. Nathan Bagarette and Mr Steven Murison were dismissed in January 2008 owing to the findings of the forensic investigations. A settlement was negotiated between PACOFS and Mr Johnny Jansen. The total costs of the investigation, suspensions, resignations and settlement was R5.6 million. An acting CEO, Mr Barry Swanepoel, was appointed, but he then resigned in March 2008. 

The position at the moment was that
executive positions had been advertised and employees in top management were all acting in various positions, including himself. Other resignations and employees going on pension resulted in PACOFS being able to curb costs for staffing, and there had been an estimated saving of R500 000.

Mr Moeketsane reported that in the Free State the only funding and grants were from Department of Arts and Culture, the major stakeholder. Monies received were in effect already earmarked for specific projects in the near future.

There was no proper artistic budget in PACOFS in the 2007/08 financial year as some of the funds that would normally be used for artistic projects was used to pay for the forensic investigations and the legal fees.

Mr Moeketsane
stated that it was the mission of PACOFS to be one of the major exponents of arts and culture in the Free State and to continue to play a role in co-presenting festivals such as the Volksblad Arts Festival, Vuka Festival & Workshops and the Basha Youth Arts Festival.

Mr G Lekgetho (ANC) stated that this presentation showed some serious challenges, including problems around workload and the issues surrounding the costs which had been incurred. He asked the delegation from PACOFS what they intended to do to correct the current situation.

Ms Ramodibe noted that the presenters had indicated that they were managing to carry the workload, and the vacancies were mostly for senior posts. She asked whether the fact that those posts had been vacant had not impacted upon expenditure, as nothing should have been paid for those posts while they were vacant. She questioned what impact the “absorption” of the workload had had on the quality and amount of work that was done by PACOFS.

The Chairperson asked for the reasons for resignations. She said that if the delegates would feel awkward about answering the question in the presence of the MEC, she would be happy to excuse him for a while. 

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) added that the presence of the MEC should not hinder or limit anyone asking questions in order to get answers.

Ms van der Walt referred to the legal fees and the forensic report. She asked whether there had been any order to pay back the legal fees, in light of the outcome of the investigations. She also inquired about why the electricity had not been paid for such a long time. She believed that a letter should be addressed to the Minister in regard to the lack of permanent senior staff at PACOFS.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) pointed out that the PACOFS budget for employee salaries had been reduced from 70% to 60%. Given that there was a decrease in funding in this financial year, he asked how was the institution hoping to cope. The management resignations also needed to be resolved, but he pointed out that no posts could be filled if the vacancies had not been published.

Mr Zulu also asked for a full explanation of the budget deficit of R10, 9 million.

Mr Moeketsane said that the comparative figures for the previous year were that the expected surplus had gone from being around R3 million to a deficit of R10, 9 million. Problems that had been faced and that needed to be addressed included the electricity issue. He explained that apparently the previous management of PACOFS had been granted an exemption by the Department of Public Works in relation to the electricity, although by law they did remain liable. The letter giving notice of the exemption could not be found, due to the change over in management.

Mr Moeketsane answered the questions around the workload of PACOFS, by saying that there had been no transformation taking place because of the limited manpower. In terms of payment of the two dismissed candidates, he noted that it had been the former Board that had driven the investigations. A new Board would have to study the proceedings of the disciplinary hearings and decide whether or not criminal charges would be laid or steps for recovery would be taken. The Minister would have to appoint that Board. He explained that the two had been suspended due to findings of
maladministration and irregularities in handling company finances.

Ms Van der Walt (DA) asked for clarity again on the issue surrounding the R5, 6 million legal fees. She noted that the previous Board did research and this altogether ended up costing R5, 6 million. She asked whether the new Board would also be having its own forensic investigation, and where was the outcome of the previous investigation.

Mr Moeketsane replied that the new Board would see to the laying of criminal charges if it considered this appropriate.

The MEC stated that PACOFS was an asset not only to the Province but also to the nation. He noted that the Minister was in the process of appointing both the senior level staff and the new Board. The results of the forensic reports should be made available to the Committee members so that the Committee could work alongside PACOFS to change its current situation around.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked how much money of the budget had actually been earmarked for specific projects and what were these projects. This question was not answered.

The Chairperson concluded that people tended not to give too much attention to arts and culture, and this should change. Arts and culture would play a significant role during the forthcoming 2010 World Cup, and it was of importance to the Committee that PACOFS transformed and developed..

The meeting was adjourned.



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