The auditor general has discovered a contentious transfer of R4.7 million from the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) used to pay the PAYE bill of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA).
The USAF was established under the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) to fund projects and programmes to achieve universal service and access to ICTs by all South African citizens.
Every holder of a license granted or deemed to have been granted in terms of the ECA is mandated to make prescribed contributions to the USAF.
Currently the priority project of the USAF is to subsidise set-top boxes for the digital television migration, as well as other projects in the ICT sector.
According to the DA, the transfer of R4,758,000 from the USAF is illegal in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, because it was not authorised by the Minister of Finance.
The Auditor General discovered the allegedly unlawful transfer from the fund to USAASA; it is recorded in the annual report for the year ended March 2012 as “irregular expenditure”.
“A similar transaction in the previous year led to the ‘resignation’ of the former Chief Financial Officer, Keith Keys, for financial mismanagement,” said the DA shadow minister of communications, Marian Shinn.
Not adding up
USAASA came under fire at the recent hearing by the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, the DA said.
This was due to excessive salaries and bonuses paid to current top management in a year when 91% of its targets were not achieved.
“One also wonders why, if the majority of the entity’s programmes were on hold because executive management was suspended, there were insufficient funds to pay PAYE dues to the Receiver of Revenue?”
According to the DA, during the past financial year, legal fees amounted to R1.1 million, and overseas travel cost R682,000 – R248,000 more than in the previous year.
About 43% (R35.4 million) of the government allocation to USAASA (R83.1 million) was spent on staff costs.
“This is clearly an entity focussed more on the enrichment of officials than the expansion of access to broadcasting and telecommunications,” Shinn said.