National Arts Council allegedly paid close to R600 000 to foot the legal bills of CEO’s internal disciplinary hearing

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It has come to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) attention that the National Arts Council (NAC) has allegedly forked out R596 000.44 to pay for its CEO, Rosemary Mangope’s legal fees for an internal disciplinary hearing which was concluded in 2019. Mangope was cleared of any wrongdoing during this disciplinary process.

The DA finds it highly irregular that the NAC would foot the bill for Mangope’s disciplinary process and casts a massive cloud over the independence of the entire internal process into her alleged misappropriation of taxpayer money. Investigations into her alleged dodgy dealings at the Council have been marred by controversy. In August 2018,  the South African Roadies Association (SARA) filed a complaint against the Office of the Auditor-General for awarding the NAC with three clean audits (2014/15, 2015/16 and 2017/18) in a row. They questioned how A-G officials did not pick up alleged irregular funds dispersed by the NAC through its disputed Expired Projects and Funding Policy (surplus funds) .

SARA alleged that Mangope signed off on a “fake funding proposal” that was lodged on behalf of them without their knowledge. Only when a later grant application by SARA was declined, did they become aware of what had happened. SARA eventually took the NAC to court, alleging that its Expired Projects and Funding Policy enabled NAC staff to dubiously put forward proposals for NAC funding for their own benefit at the expense of those who are truly in need of the funding.

An initial report by the Business Innovation Group (BIG) into these allegations found that the policy, approved by the audit and risk committee and NAC executive committee in 2015, appeared not to be in line with National Treasury and the Public Finance Management Act. The BIG report was later dismissed after it emerged that the CEO had historic ties with Forensic Auditor of the group who was part of the investigating team.

The BIG report was followed by the Gobodo forensic report which was tabled before the NAC in 2018. This report however, only contained 5 pages devoted to SARA’s complaint that the CEO was looting money through the surplus funds, while 77 pages were devoted to a different complaint which was lumped onto SARA`s. The internal disciplinary which followed did, therefore, not adequately look into the SARA allegations.

Despite the serious corruption allegations levelled against her, Mangope was only placed on special leave and not suspended; she received her full salary during that period; and it has now come to light that her employer may have covered her legal representation for the internal process which ultimately cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Given these inconsistencies, SARA was left with no choice but to refer the complaint to the Public Protector. The DA has been reliably informed that the investigation is at an advanced stage and we hope that a report will be released soon.