Former NAC Council: We have done nothing wrong over NAC debacle and we request meeting with Minister over report

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

As the wrangle over the publicly released Forensic report into the maladministration that discredited the process of the disbursement of the Presidential Economic Stimulus funds meant to reignite the Covid-19 devastated creative sector, it is increasingly becoming obvious that no one wants to take responsibility for the chaos that ensued.

The forensic report was released by the National Arts Council on Saturday, November 13, 2021, and ever since it became public, there has been a flurry of comments, denials and pretty much spinning by those implicated in the report compiled by Mazars as people rush to protect their reputations. These denials and spinning are likely to continue as the implications of what happened are starting to take shape and people are  realizing that their reputations is at stake over this report.

The latest to enter the fray last night is the former Chairperson of the NAC Board who released a statement yesterday, distancing the previous council from anything and everything that is said to have gone wrong during their tenure as they finished their term during the adjudication process of the PESP before handing over the responsibility to the incoming NAC Council inaugurated in January 2021 in the middle of the PESP adjudication process.

The former Council says the followed to law to the later as they adhered to the prescripts of the NAC Act as adjudicating the applications of the PESP call was concerned, they argue.

“We trust that the Minister and DSAC will afford us the courtesy of a meeting to discuss these issues in the longer term interests of the sector, “ says an unsigned media statement “Issued by the former Chair and Board of the NAC,.” The former Chairperson of the previous NAC Board was Hartley Ngoato.

 CITYLIFE/ARTS here publishes in full the statement from the former NAC Council Board Chairperson: Hartley Ngoato.

“MEDIA RELEASE – issued by former NAC CHAIR and BOARD

NAC PESP FUNDING: The Chairman and members of the former NAC Board would like to express their disappointment at the way in which the Minister of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mtethwa , has chosen to deal with the R 300m PESP funding fiasco.

It is important to note, administrative blunders aside, that the full amount of R 285m has been distributed to the creative arts community, individuals and organisations, over the period January to June 2021 and fully accounted for. A 5% administration fee amounting to the balance of R 15m was allocated to the NAC as per the agreement with the DSAC which we assume can also be accounted for by the NAC.

Furthermore it has to be noted that neither the former Chair nor members of EXCO have been afforded the opportunity to input into the forensic investigation that was supposed to uncover the alleged maladministration. We have also not been afforded the courtesy of having sight of the full forensic report. It would appear that the forensic investigators have not familiarised themselves thoroughly with the NAC Act, the policies of the NAC, nor the grant disbursement adjudication processes implemented by the NAC since its inception.

In this context we would like to place the following facts on record:

Senior DSAC department officials were kept informed of the administrative processes and progress of the implementation of PESP in a detailed and a weekly basis.·

 In late November/ early December the CEO had begun engaging with DSAC with regard to a possible extension of the Council’s term of office due to delays on the PESP process (the start of which was delayed by two months). We are of the firm· opinion that had an extension of only one month been granted this calamitous situation would have been averted.

The NAC’s usual grant disbursement mechanisms were followed for the PESP, namely: panels of independently appointed individuals chaired by members of Council as prescribed by the NAC Act do the adjudication and recommend to Council with Council approving final disbursements.·

 While Council took a decision that no members would avail themselves for contracted positions relating to the PESP, (see Minutes of 19 September), the regular NAC Grant Disbursement process for adjudication was followed including using existing panel members and ensuring that the five elected Council Panel Chairs as stipulated in the NAC Act were also available to chair the PESP panels. No irregular payments were made to Panel Chairs as the standard rate of payment as prescribed·

by Treasury was paid to Panel Chairs and advisory members for services rendered in reviewing applications and making recommendations to Council/Exco for approval.

 Given the time of the year, the pressure to approve applications, contract and disburse funds to be used over the period Jan-March and the additional pressure of the end of term of the Council, the Council took the decision to delegate authority to its EXCO (made up of chair, vice chair and chairs of the Council committees) to act as the final adjudication to ensure speedy approvals over the month of December. As it turns out this was moot as the process was not concluded and Council was not able to finally approve all applications and allocations.·

 It should be noted that while recommendations for approval from Panels were above the budget of R 285m these were never approved by Council or EXCO. Once Council became aware of the ‘over allocations’ by Panels for Stream 2, Council recommended to management that all applications be vetted based on their 100% achievement of the criteria established for the PESP (as per Minutes of 30 December 2020). At no point did the Council, or the Exco, approve or commit the administration to disperse R 637 705.80 of funds as stated at the media briefing on 27 September 2021.·

 It would seem that between the period 30 December 2020 (once the term of office for the Council ended) and when the new Council met later in January 2021 a decision had been made (together with DSAC) to move to a first-reviewed first-allocated basis. This was not the process as originally advertised. This decision constitutes a significant change to the PESP process and is a further factor that gave rise to the controversy.·

We trust that the Minister and DSAC will afford us the courtesy of a meeting to discuss these issues in the longer term interests of the sector. Issued by the former Chair and Board of the NAC.”

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