The Portfolio Committee on Communications is concerned about the ongoing challenges at the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) that continue to hamper the smooth running of this important institution. The committee visited the entity to report back to staff on issues raised during a previous engagement the committee had with all stakeholders in 2017.
Of major concern remains the inability of the board to function efficiently because, among other things, they don’t quorate. The board has fiduciary duty to ensure that the institution functions effectively and the current situation negatively impacts the operation of the institution. “It is concerning that Board Committees are not functional with the exception of the Audit and Risk Committee,” said Mr Humphrey Maxegwana, the Chairperson of the committee.
The appointment of the Company Secretary as the Acting Chief Executive Officer for two months was highly irregular as the committee views this as the blurring of lines between the operations of the entity and board oversight. Despite this, the committee welcomes the secondment of an Acting CEO from the Government Communication and Information System to assist on a temporary basis until the position is filled.
The vacancy rate at the institution, especially within the senior management level, is a worrying factor that will impede the development and implementation of the organisational strategy. While the committee acknowledge the challenge posed by the inquorate board, it has called for the Department of Communications as the shareholder representative, together with the Presidency, to urgently fill the vacant positions within the board.
It is further concerning that key directorates in the agency remain non-functional due to capacity challenges. For example, the Monitoring and Evaluation unit only had two staff members that service nine provinces between them. Also, the Internal Audit and Risk Officer were appointed on a temporary basis, something which poses a governance risk.
The development of a diversified media landscape is a critical role necessary for the sustenance of South Africa’s democracy. While the threat by Sentech to shut down community radio stations due to non-payment has been resolved, the committee has urged the executive management together with the department to find lasting solutions to that challenge.
The committee will, following these interactions, decide what possible way forward must be undertaken to bring finality to challenges at the entity. Also, the appointment of a permanent CEO and CFO as well as other vacant senior management positions is a matter that must receive urgent attention as these positions are critical in driving the mandate of the institution.
Furthermore, management has been urged to engage employees to build institutional morale and sameness of purpose, that is necessary to deliver on the mandate of the entity.
The committee has highlighted that the entity remains a strategic lever necessary to ensure the development of a diverse media landscape, that is necessary for a maturing democracy as ours and cannot be left to disintegrate.