Sports Minister Thokozile Xasa announced sweeping changes in Tshwane on Friday to the structure and functioning of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) while releasing the report from the inquiry into the troubled institution.
The inquiry, which was led by retired Judge Ralph Zulman, who had assistance from labour lawyer Shamima Gaibie and former sports administrator Ali Bacher, listed a host of problems at Sascoc, starting with the board.
It said factionalism had rendered the board dysfunctional, corporate governance and compliance controls were absent, finances had been wasted on litigation among employees and leaders, and board members had received excessive travel benefits while travelling to international sporting events.
The report cited board members’ conflict of interest for serving in the leadership of Sascoc affiliates and said they had inappropriately dealt with sexual harassment claims.
Sascoc has made headlines in recent years during the public spat between president Gideon Sam and sacked CEO Tubby Reddy, with a series allegations of corruption and mismanagement reportedly distracting the organisation from its role of preparing and supporting athletes for events like the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games.
Xasa presented and endorsed the report’s findings and, taking into consideration Sascoc’s responses to the recommendations, explained the way forward.
“The report that I presented captures what needs to be done in the immediate as well as what needs to be done in terms of restructuring in order to incorporate the kind of recommendations and focus that it needs,” she said.
Sam will continue to lead the current Sascoc board which will remain in place while the organisation introduces new structural controls to improve the standard of the board and executive members and tackle the institution’s inherent problems.
“We are not here to dictate in terms of what the provisions are. (Sascoc) have an opportunity to put together provisions that would allow that structure to function and function optimally,” the minister said on one point.
Regarding allegations of corruption against Reddy, Xasa said she was debarred from interfering or to getting involved in this matter “as it relates to the termination of the services of an executive member of a sports body which in any event is a labour matter”.
She urged the organisation to recover such funds if the allegations could be proven.
On other allegations of corruption, Xasa said the department of sport and recreation director general should refer any cases with sufficient evidence to law enforcement agencies.
Xasa said Sascoc had disputed a number of recommendations, some of which she made compromises on and others which she rejected.
“In as far as the representations of Sascoc are concerned, in general it is apparent that while Sascoc agrees with some of the committee’s recommendations it does not agree with other substantial recommendations that in the commission’s view are fundamental to governance of sport in the Republic of South Africa
“And in essence it is apparent in Sascoc’s response to the commission’s recommendation’s that Sascoc is opposed to any external or independent oversight to their role, function and use of public monies,” she said.
The president of the board will now have to be appointed independently and board members and senior executives will no longer be able to serve in Sascoc’s sporting affiliates’ leadership, seen as a conflict of interest.
“I am of the view that Sascoc’s representation is totally at loggerheads with the good governance as the said Sascoc board members, inclusive of the president, accountant and commercial lawyer must indeed relinquish such membership and affiliation,” Xasa said on Sascoc’s attempt to allow leaders to serve two organisations at once.
The minister said board members’ travel benefits can be approved by the organisation’s remuneration committee, but that approval will now be subject to approval from an independent auditor.
Board members must now also declare all income they receive and not just that related to the sports industry.
The committee of inquiry’s recommendations approved by the minister must be enacted by 30 April 2019 and the board must provide monthly updates on its progress.
Xasa said that in the long-term, amendments to the National Sport and Recreation Act, currently tabled before Parliament, will revise Sascoc’s organisational structure, clarify its role with the department, define its duties, clarify the board members’ eligibility for election, and established dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid the current impasse.
Bacher, a member of the committee, said: “It’s about a way forward because sport in this country is very important to all its people – black white, young, old – it doesn’t matter where you come from. We are a sport-loving country and I think what we tried to create in essence is good corporate governance, openness, accountability, fair processes.” DM
"Censorship of anything at any time in any place on whatever pretence has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot." ~ Eugene O'Neill