SABC’s Sophie Mokoena caught up in multi-million Rand fraud

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Three top news managers at the SABC are facing numerous charges before disciplinary hearings over irregular expenditure of R2.5m involving a foreign news agency and allegations of poor performance.

Sunday World can reveal that head of TV news Nothando Maseko, head of radio news Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane and the public broadcaster’s foreign editor Sophie Mokoena have been exchanging the hot seat to answer to allegations of wrongdoing.

Maseko, Ditlhakanyane and Mokoena all referred enquiries to SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu.

Momodu said: “The SABC can confirm that the individuals have been subjected to disciplinary processes however, we will not share information nor discuss the merits of the disciplinary cases publicly.”

So intense is the drama in the SABC news division that Ditlhakanyane allegedly opted to jump ship days before she was set to appear before a disciplinary hearing to answer to allegations of poor performance and failure to act against her colleague who had been identified as the central figure in a forensic report on the irregular news agreement.

A source says Mokoena was allegedly implicated by the report as having assigned stories to a fairly new international news agency, Features Story News (FSN), without a contract.

Her conduct, according to an insider, amounted to irregular expenditure as no contract was in place to justify work done by the agency.

As a result, Mokoena was also facing charges for her failure to adhere to SABC procurement processes when appointing the foreign news agency.

Another charge emanating from the arrangement with FSN against Mokoena also includes negligence, with arguments that Mokoena as a manager should have known that the Public Finance Management Act does not permit for a contract of that value to be signed without going to tender.

However, those close to her have said Mokoena cannot be blamed for sourcing content from FSN, stating that when she took over her new position, all contracts with international news service providers such as AFP and Reuters had expired and there was no legal person to deal with the renewal of the contracts.

“She took a decision to ask all major news agencies to assist the SABC with stories, but they all refused to help without a contract. That’s when she approached FSN and as a new news agency, the company agreed to do stories while she was waiting for the legal person to come [and] assist with the contracts,” said a source attached to the news division.

An executive manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Maseko and Ditlhakanyane became entangled in the foreign news agency drama after they failed to implement recommendations by the internal forensic report stating that Mokoena should be subjected to an internal process to answer for her role in the saga.

Another executive close to the news division added that Maseko and Ditlhakanyane were also facing additional charges including poor performance relating to their alleged failure to submit their operational plans for the year when they were asked to do so by group executive for news Phathiswa Magopeni.

The two also allegedly failed to submit their inputs on the SABC’s election coverage plan for this year’s national elections.

Sunday World understands that after she was served with the charges and a notice to appear before the disciplinary hearing two weeks ago, Ditlhakanyane allegedly applied for early retirement.