By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
The National Arts Council (NAC), whose handling of the Presidential Economic Stimulus Package (PESP) funds was heavily criticized by the creative sector, says that it will not take action against those alleged to be implicated in the debacle until such time a forensic report is completed and handed over to them.
The NAC commissioned a forensic investigation into the PESP debacle following massive allegations of maladministration by the creative sector.
“The NAC is going to act on the basis of the report of the forensic investigation, which we hope will be concluded by the end of August. That report is the one that will guide us,” said NAC Council spokesperson Tshepo Mashiane on Friday, July 30 at an industry Zoom PESP briefing. Currently two NAC senior arts executives, Chief executive Officer Rosemary Manope and Chief financial officer Clifton Changfoot are on suspension related to the handling of the PESP. The saga has seen unprecedented protest action by South African creatives since democracy dawned, notably the occupation of the NAC offices in newtown for 60 days by artuists led by soprano Sibongile Mngoma, who attended the briefing on Friday.
Mashiane also replied to allegations that the scope of the investigation remains cloudy as it has not been shared with the industry in the name of transparency.
There has also been calls for more transparency in the current investigation into the PESP saga.
However so far a report commissioned by the Theatre and Dance Alliance, release recently is heavily scathing of the way that the PESP was handled. The NAC however is yet to publicly repond to that report. The NAC’s own forensic report is therefore likely to come under close industry scrutiny particularly because the civil society driven TADA report has already laid the blame on the doors of among other entities the NAC Council and the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in the way the PESP was handled.
“The scope of the current investigation is to look at the entire PESP as a programme and look at issues where there might have been issues. It is the entire PESP process that is under investigation.
Mashiane also added that the has resolved to issue the next call for applications for NAC grant in the next week or so.
“The call for applications for the annual NAC grants will this time look at arts disciplines instead of programmes, and these include craft, dance, literature, and multi-discipline. In effect we are reverting back to the system that NAC followed before the current one as we have learned from the current experience. In the new call there will also be a call for bursaries, not only for post graduate studies, but also undergraduate study,” Mashiane added.
At the briefing, it was also reealed that the NAC has instituted investigations into the non payment of third part service providers by some of the beneficiaries of the PESP.
“We have received allegations that some of the third parties, who were contracted to supply services to beneficiaries, have not been paid for the work they did even though the NAC has paid the beficiaries. And so we are investigating those allegations,” Mashiane said.
The NAc however admitted that it is yet to finalise payments for the second trench pending receipt of project reports by beneficiaries, the main issue causing the delaying being the issue of Tax Compliance, according to the NAC.