Windhoek-Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) board chairperson Sven Thieme has responded to accusations levelled against the national broadcaster by the DTA of Namibia over the broadcaster’s finances.
During a press conference on Monday, the official opposition party in parliament, the DTA, accused NBC of mismanaging its funds and its medical aid scheme that was reportedly in jeopardy, saying the situation called for an urgent official investigation.
Thieme said as much as the public have a right to share information, a balanced picture and unity were required during this time of economic crisis.
Thieme, as well as the NBC director-general Stanley Similo, said they welcomed the public to review the NBC’s books as the institution maintained an open-door policy.
“NBC management has been working around the clock and has been doing its utmost best to develop people and manage funds the right way at the national broadcaster,” Thieme argued.
He said the operational and capital expenditure budget was cut by over N$200 million over the last two years, yet despite that the NBC was able to increase its own revenue from N$84 million to N$102 million in the current economic climate.
He said there was no need to launch an investigation, as the board continued to fulfill its fiduciary duties. He further noted that NBC management had done a splendid job in ensuring that employees remained insured, despite the fact that NMC had suspended the broadcaster’s members.
“Management has the full support of the board,” Thieme noted and confirmed that NBC employees did indeed have medical aid coverage since July 1.
On his part, NBC director general Similo emphasised that the broadcaster was not looking for a “bail-out”. He explained that the corporation had merely disclosed the cost of doing business at any given time of the year.
Linked to that, he said, the NBC had also committed to bringing to the table N$126 million in own revenue during the current financial year – the outstanding funds would have to come from the shareholder, the government.
Similo added that the board had highlighted the fact that the allocated subsidy was insufficient to cover the cost of operations and that the board had informed the shareholder accordingly.
He further pointed out that the current state of affairs at the NBC was not about funds that were depleted due to mismanagement, but rather that the corporation’s appeal to the shareholder had been a cry for help, which had been highlighted as matters became critical.
“If the NBC was given funds from a subsidy perspective, and that amount was depleted before the end of the financial year, we as management would have taken full responsibility and accepted the accusations from DTA MP Nico Smith,” the NBC’s director general noted.
“However, making statements without the full information is defamatory and extremely dangerous. These statements are touching on the personal integrity of the individuals accused. Smith could have called me – and the invite stands – to view the broadcaster’s books,” Similo said.
“The current funding model does not work for the NBC, hence we are very sure to say that where we are now, we are still on the right track. In terms of the medical aid, we had guns to our heads to say, ‘Pay the full amount now’.
“Already last Friday, when the NMC medical aid cover ended, we had a new service provider on board, the Renaissance Health medical aid fund. This demonstrates that management is taking care of its employees and will never leave them destitute,” he said.
Similo underscored that the corporation was determined to further grow its own income by 24 percent. Initially the corporation had calculated that the cost of doing business during the current financial year would amount to N$369 million.
However, when the NBC had become aware of government’s financial challenges in terms of fully subsidising the corporation, NBC management had of its own volition cut operational costs from N$369 to N$345 million.
“That cut indicates that we are also serious about making the business work,” Similo emphasised.
Thieme reiterated that the NBC’s doors remain open and said the right to information was a constitutional right, but noted that “it costs money to have towers in place and get information out to the masses.”
The NBC leadership team concluded by reassuring the wider public that the broadcaster was ready to tackle future challenges with the full support of the board and in an effort to move the corporation forward.