_: The Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture has condemned the ongoing “management crisis” at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) which has left the body “dysfunctional”.
After receiving a presentation from the SAHRA Council on the state of affairs of the entity, the Committee came to a conclusion that the situation was untenable and needed immediate action from both the Council and the Department of Arts and Culture.
SAHRA – a body mandated to look at the identification, conservation, preservation and management of heritage resources with national significance – has faced a number of challenges, a situation which has led to the entity receiving a disclaimer audit opinion from the Auditor-General.
The Council informed the Committee that SAHRA was facing a number of challenges partly due to governance and operational issues that accumulated over a number of years. One of the challenges raised by the Council was regarding the employment and contract of the CEO. “We were made aware that a variety of qualified candidates applied for the position of the CEO, but only one person was short-listed. The person was then appointed as CEO,” said Dr Somadoda Fikeni, Chairperson of the Council.
According to the Council, the advert indicated that the position was for at least three years and lapsed in February this year. But the CEO has now indicated that there was a verbal undertaking by the previous Council that the contract would be for five years. There is currently no performance contract for the CEO, only an employment letter given to the CEO when the position was given to her. The CEO was not part of the delegation as she was on sick leave.
Said Committee Chairperson Ms Thandile Sunduza: “As things stand, SAHRA does not have a CEO, because by law if a contract has lapsed then that person is no longer employed.” The Committee feels that it is also worrying that there is a high level of retrenchments and resignations of staff members, especially in critical positions. Currently, the entity does not have permanent CFO, Company Secretary and Legal Advisor, Head of Corporate Services, Supply Chain Manager and an HR Manager.
The AG Report confirmed that there was no proper management of resources. The audit opinion which highlighted weaknesses in procurement and supply chain management, control over fixed assets, control over human resources and payroll, financial accounting and presentation, inadequate supporting evidence for key transactions and poor performance management system represent an organisation in chaos.
The Committee calls on the Department to resolve the issue of the non-payment of Council members as this will assist in boasting the morale of the Council. The Committee welcomes the establishment, as recommended by the AG, of a forensic inquiry into the affairs of the body, the investigation of the CEO for misconduct and the invitation of the CFOs of Iziko and Arts-Cape to assist with the financial management within the entity.
The Committee has also instructed the Department to submit a written report in two weeks’ time to give an outline of what the Department will do to assist the Council to remedy the situation at SAHRA.