The suspensions of the arts executives relate to the unsatisfactory manner of handling the Presidential Economic Stimulus funds disbursement to artists.
By Edward Tsumele
It does not rain at the National Arts Council (NAC) over the disbursement of the Presidential Economic Stimulus, but is in fact it pours. After reaching what appeared to be a final solution to the much delayed disbursement of funds to artists last week, that would see artists starting to receive the funds they applied for, there was a sense of relief among artists.
However as it has turned out, the debacle over the PESP Funds is not over yet. The new National Arts Council Board, which started its work in January and took over the responsibility of disbursing PESP funds from its predecessors, has suspended chief executive officer Rosemary Mangope and its chief financial officer Clifton Changfoot.
Announcing the suspensions yesterday, Sunday, February 28, 2021, the NAC Board did not give details about the latest developments, but intimated that it has everything to do with the unsatisfactory manner of how the PESP payment process was being handled by management.
“The new Council of the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) has suspended its Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer pending an investigation in relation to the management of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP).
This decision follows robust engagement with management over the past weeks culminating in the Council meeting of Friday, 26 February 2021 which left the Council seriously dissatisfied with the progress on the rollout of the PESP.
The NAC is entrusted with the responsibility to administer the PESP on behalf of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC). To this effect, the NAC was allocated a total amount of R300 million to be disbursed through two funding streams, at R100 million and R200 million for Stream One and Stream Two respectively. Stream One was intended to enable job retention, whilst Stream Two was for work opportunities within the arts, culture and heritage sector.
The Council has since appointed Ms. Julie Diphofa as the Acting CEO, who has been the senior official at the NAC for more than 20 years; and Ms. Reshma Bhoola as the Acting CFO, currently the financial manager of the entity.
The Council took these decisive steps in the interest of service delivery as it relates to the PESP meant to support hundreds of arts, culture and heritage practitioners.
This Council remains fully committed to completing this process as soon as possible and to ensure that the PESP funds reach all the deserving and successful applicants so that projects that will either sustain or create work opportunities are not hindered in any way,” the statement reads.
Diphofa, whio holds a master’s degree in arts is an NAC veteran of more than 20 years. Her current substantive position is that of Arts Development Manager. The Council also announced the appointment of as acting Chief Financial officer. Reshma Bhoola as the Acting CFO, currently the financial manager of the entity.
The NAC in recent months has faced severe criticism from the arts sector in the manner they handled the PESP process, meant to stimulate economic activities and save jobs in the Covid-19 hard hit sector that saw some artists becoming desperate as they faced certain destitution due to lack of economic activity due to the lockdowns to curtail the spread of infection.
The PESP and other financial assistance packages from government are meant to cushion the difficulties the creative sector is facing and therefore trigger the sector to life once more as restrictions at Level 3 of risk adjusted lockdown does allow some activities to take place within the sector.
But the NAC has been battling to meet the deadline of disbursing the R300 million it got from Treasury via the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture for the benefit of the whole sector.
For example it is only last week that the NAC started disbursing the funds, and yet by now the artists should be wrapping up their projects and concluding their reports that they have to hand over to NAC on how they would have used these funds as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).