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NACSA CALLS FOR INQUIRY (article first published : 2003-11-16)

The Network for Arts and Culture South Africa has called for an inquiry into the National Arts Council (NAC) crisis.

“The Network for Arts and Culture South Africa (NACSA) notes with deep concern the recent decision of the Board of the NAC to suspend Ms Doreen Nteta, CEO of the NAC and Mr Kiran Isvarlal, financial manager of the NAC. While the nature of the charges against the suspended staff is unclear at this point, we have little doubt that these suspensions of the most senior management of the NAC will have an immediate and adverse effect on the image, administrative efficiencies and governance of the NAC, and that ultimately, the arts and artists will again be the primary losers.

“We note that in the six-month tenure of this Board, it has already been at the centre of debilitating controversies. The late appointment of the Board led to a long delay in the allocation of funding that had direct and negative consequences for artists planning to perform at the National Arts Festival. The exclusion of Marilyn Martin from the new Board despite her being duly and legally elected by the previous Board, raised huge concerns about the authorities' commitment to democracy and to upholding the law.

“For some time now, there have been allegations of severe conflicts of interest, poor corporate governance and scant attention to the Public Finance Management Act on the part of the new NAC Board. For example, a senior Board member - with the alleged support of the majority of other Board members including the Chairperson - has advanced his case for preparing a business plan for the NAC at a cost of R300,000 to R400,000. It is our view that, in the light of the paltry sums allocated to artists and cultural projects, that this is an obscene proposal that reflects very poorly on the NAC Board, and gives us little faith in its capacity and will to govern this public body transparently, in accordance with the principles of good corporate governance and in the best interests of the arts.

“We are concerned that the suspension of the senior management of the NAC might be a strategy on the part of some Board members to remove those whom they believe to be blocking the pursuit of their self-interests. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that this crisis will again jeopardise the allocation of funding to artists and slow down preparations for arts and culture projects to mark ten years of democracy in our country.”

Sticks Mdidimba, Deputy General Secretary of NACSA said that the arts and culture community lobbied vigorously for an arm's length, independent National Arts Council to nurture, promote and defend the practice of freedom of creative expression in our country. “We are therefore deeply distressed by the current crisis, and we wish to see it resolved as quickly and as transparently as possible in order to have minimal negative effect on the arts," he said.

Speaking on behalf of NACSA's National Steering Committee, Graham Falken called for an independent and comprehensive inquiry into the current crisis to determine the facts and circumstances that led to the suspension of the management and to fully investigate the interests of individual board members and staff that might have contributed to this. He said that should there be evidence of gross mismanagement and poor corporate governance on the part of management and/or the Board, NACSA demands that this be made public, and that appropriate action be taken.

“Furthermore, NACSA asks that the suspensions of the senior management be lifted with immediate effect in order for them at least to proceed with their administrative work to ensure that the funding allocations agreed at the last Board meeting reach the intended projects. Alternatively, NACSA asks that the Board as a whole be suspended while an independent inquiry takes place, and that an Administrator be appointed to run the NAC in the interim.

“We urge the Minister and the responsible Departmental officials to act with urgency to resolve this matter speedily. On behalf of our members and of the broader arts and culture sector, we are willing to play any part that might help to restore the dignity of, faith in and the good governance of the National Arts Council," said Falken.

For enquiries or comment, call Graham Falken on 021 465 3689 or 084 752 4333 or Sticks Mdidimba on 021 410 9834 or 082 716 8256.




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