South Africa: R160 Million Paid to Arts Sector Beneficiaries

A total of 979 beneficiaries of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) programme, which is administered by the National Arts Council (NAC), have been paid R160 million.

In a media statement on Monday, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said the second tranche payments, will be made after the reporting stage, as stated in the beneficiaries' contractual agreements.

The PESP programme is designed to act as an aggressive injection of income into the economy that enables ambitious proposals that create opportunities for employment and collaboration.

It is aimed at assisting practitioners and their projects as well as companies that incurred losses (actual and planned/existing, new and those that were at concept stage) during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

"Furthermore, there was a total of 30 contracts being submitted to finance for payment processing in the week starting today. There are other contracts that have been either not returned by beneficiaries or contracts with outstanding queries and/or beneficiaries who have opted to not continue with their projects," the Minister said.

With regards to the 3rd Phase Relief Fund, out of the 2 315 applicants that were approved by adjudicators for payment, 939 have been verified by the finance unit and submitted to Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) for payment.

To date, 285 have been paid an amount of R2 850 000.

"It is crucial to note that this status continues to change daily as more and more individual applications are adjudicated, processed by finance and paid. Once the individual applications have all been processed, the focus will then shift to applications from organisations.

"However, the department opted to prioritise the applications from individuals as this is more critical during these trying times," the Minister said.

Forensic investigation

Last month, the Minister announced that he had ordered a forensic investigation into the mismanagement of the R300 million for the PESP programme by the NAC.

"As announced on 29 March 2021, the department has since engaged and brought on board the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and finalised the Terms of Reference (ToRs).

"This means that the department is now ready to send out the call for quotations to secure an independent and legible service provider to undertake this important task of forensic investigation, as of today, 12 April 2021," the Minister said.

He noted the order issued by the courts on 9 April 2021, ordering the artists occupying the NAC offices to vacate the premises of the NAC.

"We plead with the occupants to respect the court and judicial processes and leave the NAC offices, as matters pertaining to the PESP are being dealt with. On several occasions, we have met with them but they have not allowed the NAC to continue to do its critical work.

"While we deeply sympathise with the plight of the sector, we would like to remind the artists occupying the NAC offices that their continued sit-in at these premises is an impediment to the finalisation of the PESP administration and disbursement process. It is also an obstruction to other important responsibilities of the NAC," Mthethwa said.

He said the department is applying maximum effort to ensure that it eases the plight of COVD-19 on the sector.

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