CAPE TOWN, The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) desperately needs money to survive and pay its debt, members of its interim board have told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

The board members and some executives accompanied Communications Minister Ayanda Ddlodlo, when he appeared before the Committee here Wednesday to explain 5.1 billion Rand (about 382 million US dollars) in irregular expenditure in the 2015/16 financial year. While the broadcaster will be able to pay staff salaries in May, it owes millions of rand in royalties to producers.

A few weeks ago, the interim board announced that it would seek assistance from Treasury but Dlodlo told the committee that they had to provisionally withdraw that request.

“What Treasury is interested in is that systems must be in place before a decision is taken. We must determine weaknesses, cut down and sell non-core assets if we have to, and have more tangible evidence-based documentation.

THe Deputy Chairperson of the Interim Board, Mathatha Tsedu, would not disclose how much money was requested. We have asked for a guarantee to request a loan from banks because if we go on our own, banks don’t trust us anymore. I am at no liberty to say that.

He assured that SABC staff would receive their salaries in May. This board decided to suspend its own payment until such time that they can be paid, that is how serious (it is) … my short answer is they (staff) will be paid.

However, according to SABC Group Executive for Television Nomsa Philiso, the public broadcaster owes millions of rands in outstanding royalty payments, listing amounts owing to record companies of betweem two million and more than 50 million Rand.

The SABC has been battling irregular expenditure for years and the latest figure stands at 5.1 billion Rand. An audit firm was appointed in 2014 to assist in uncovering the root of this. The auditors were initially appointed for three months at a cost of 5.0 million Rand but the contract rolled over for two years without following supply chain processes, ultimately costing 25 million Rand.

Members of Parliament on the committee were very unhappy with the absence of James Aguma, the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of the SABC. Aguma is said to be off for the week on sick leave. The MPs called for Aguma to be suspended.

Meanwhile, the interim board also confirmed that the disciplinary hearing of former SABC Chief Ooperating Officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, began on Wednesday.