Home South African R300m fund to help artists during lockdown was mismanaged – probe

R300m fund to help artists during lockdown was mismanaged – probe

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While the investigation did not find money missing, it did find the incompetent manner in which the package to assist artists was managed.

A mural that forms part of a Covid-19 awareness campaign in Soweto. File picture

AN INDEPENDENT forensic investigation into allegations of misappropriation of funds to help artists during lockdown has revealed that some applicants received more money than they should have while other artists are waiting for funds.

The report, commissioned by the government, revealed maladministration and mismanagement in implementing the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) that was announced following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

At the time, the government had announced a PESP of R300 million to assist artists.

It later emerged that some of the funds had allegedly been misappropriated.

The National Arts Council (NAC) then handed over the forensic report to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

The probe sought to establish how the relief money was distributed to various beneficiaries.

“The report further clearly identifies the individuals responsible and who are to be held accountable,” Mthethwa said during a briefing on Monday.

The independent forensic investigation lasted almost 12 weeks.

While the department said the investigation did not find money missing, it did uncover the incompetent manner in which it was managed.

“There are people who got money who were not supposed to get it, but money has not disappeared. All the money has been accounted for but we are dealing with the inappropriate benefiting of funds,” Mthethwa said.

The investigators discovered many administrative failures attached to the PESP programme, including the lack of adequate oversight and review processes resulting in non-compliant projects being approved.

The investigation also found that there were failures to meet the timelines for the delivery of the PESP and failures to manage and monitor the process.

There were complaints a few months ago that some of the artists did not get any money. Some of the artists staged a sit-in at the offices of the National Arts Council in Johannesburg. The artists were in the building for several months before eventually leaving.

Mthethwa explained that of the R300m in funding, 5% was retained by the NAC for administration purposes, which left R285m for artists.

He said R272m was distributed and “in the pockets” of artists, while the NAC was managing the distribution of the balance for other applicants.

The independent forensic audit was implemented in July this year following multiple claims of mismanagement of the PESP and complaints from the creative sector.

The NAC appointed Mazars Forensics to conduct the independent forensic investigation into the implementation of the PESP.

The investigation was completed and shared with the minister on September 17. It was followed by a formal presentation to the Department of Sport, Art and Culture on September 22.

In addition to the administrative findings, the auditors also found multiple governance and financial mismanagement actions including a conflict of interest in respect of some former council members who were involved in distributing funds.

No new council members were found to be conflicted.

Mthethwa said consequence management processes would be instituted against all those implicated in the report.

He said the process was being broken down into three categories – council members, senior management and staff.

He said all findings related to council members would be dealt with by the minister’s office as the National Arts Council did not have jurisdiction over them.

Political Bureau

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