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PANSA ON NAC COURT CASE (article first published : 2005-08-7)

Media statement by the Performing Arts Network Of South Africa (PANSA) on the National Arts Council (NAC) court case:

The Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) has taken note of the outcome of the court case in which some former members of the National Arts Council Board brought an urgent application against the Minister of Arts and Culture’s decision to dissolve the Board in December 2004. While Judge James Yekiso has ruled that the matter falls outside of the jurisdiction of the Cape courts as the decision to dissolve the board was made in Pretoria, no finding has been made on the merits of the case either for the dissolution of the NAC, or its reinstatement. It remains to be seen whether the applicants – Mark Gordon and undisclosed other members of the former Board – will institute their challenge in a Pretoria court, but we take note of the Judge’s decision to dismiss their application with costs.

Furthermore we have taken note of the following in the Director General’s affidavit in support of the Minister’s decision to terminate the Board: - his allegation that the resolution relied on by Mark Gordon to bring the application on behalf of the NAC was a forgery; - his allegation that the previous Board contravened the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) by failing to appoint a CEO and by assuming the management responsibilities of the NAC while the management was suspended; - his allegation that the NAC failed to submit an annual report as required by the PFMA and his indication of numerous concerns raised by the Auditor General about the financial affairs of the NAC including the absence of minutes authorizing the allocation of funds in excess of R30 million; - his allegation that at least one application – turned down by the relevant advisory panel – was nevertheless granted funding and that this applicant was later awarded a contract to undertake work on behalf of the NAC in Grahamstown that amounted to more than 380,000, and - his allegation of the irregular appointment of various companies to carry out work for the NAC.

We note further that similar allegations against the Board were made to the previous Minister and to the DG himself more than a year before by the CEO of the NAC who was subsequently suspended along with two other management members, two of whom later lost their livelihood at the NAC despite having been cleared of all but one minor charge. The previous Minister and the DG failed to act on those allegations, and we believe that they were negligent in doing so since if they were serious enough to warrant the removal of the Board in December 2005, they were serious enough to warrant at least an investigation in November 2003.

Due to this negligence, hundreds of thousands of rands of taxpayers funds have been lost; the brand, credibility and functioning of the NAC have been inestimably damaged; the reputations and livelihood of former senior managers have been adversely compromised and, not least, artists and arts organizations have suffered even more than usual from poor administration, a lack of internal accountability and a lack of decision-making at the NAC. Meanwhile, those responsible for the alleged practices of poor corporate governance, abuse of power and state resources, and the contravention of various acts continue to walk free and to occupy positions in state-sponsored entities. This, we believe, is a travesty of justice and the principles of transparency and fairness in our democracy.

The NAC remains an important institution to support the development and promotion of the arts in South Africa. As artists, we believe that it is imperative that strong action be taken in order to restore the credibility and brand of the NAC. To this end, we urge the Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan – whose action in dissolving the Board last year we have applauded – to:

- launch a full and transparent inquiry into all that transpired at the NAC since its appointment in May 2003 and into all the factors that led to the decline of this body over the last two years, and that appropriate disciplinary, criminal and administrative action be instituted where necessary;

- investigate the issues revolving around the suspended and subsequently dismissed management through an independent, credible mechanism, and that the dismissals be upheld if the allegations against them be found to have substance or that they be properly compensated if found to be not guilty;

- enter into dialogue with the arts sector on ways in which the functioning, credibility and brand of the NAC can be restored;

- embark on an urgent process to appoint an interim CEO to manage the affairs of the NAC, hold staff accountable, ensure the proper functioning of the advisory panels and to ensure that the financial and administrative systems are sound;

- begin the process of reconstituting the Board of the NAC as soon as possible, legal action notwithstanding, since the board as envisaged by the NAC Act has ceased to exist given the number of resignations from the Board;

Artists fought hard for an independent, professional and effective National Arts Council to promote and defend the interests of the arts and culture sector. In many ways, since its inception, and particularly in the last few years, artists have not experienced the NAC as such a body.

We believe that the current situation provides an opportunity for the arts sector and the relevant state and political authorities to address the deficiencies of the last ten years and to put in place a National Arts Council worthy of its mandate.




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