by Herman Manson (@marklives) The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) — responsible for skills development in, among others, the advertising, film, media and IT sectors — has confirmed allegations first made on social media that it is investigating the Hummingbird Group and its MD, Bridget Scarr, over the non-payment of MICT SETA fees to AFDA.
This follows news that film, TV and performance school, AFDA, had to send legal letters of demand to over 40 former students from the 2014 academic year. The students received bursaries from MICT SETA for the 2014 academic year; the money wasn’t paid to AFDA for the students’ fees.
Not allowed to pay schools directly
MICT SETA is not allowed to pay schools directly, according to a source familiar with events and who wished to remain anonymous, so it looks for a levy-paying company to facilitate payments to institutions which, in this instance, has been Hummingbird Group, and which has subsequently failed pay the students’ fees.
In an email to MarkLives, Jabu Sibeko, senior manager: learning programme division at MICT SETA, confirmed the allegation as outlined above. “With regards to non-payment of AFDA fees by Ms Bridget Scarr in 2014, I wish to confirm that it is true,” he wrote.
Sibeko also confirmed that MICT SETA has been waiting for AFDA to supply it with more information. MICT SETA has also requested a meeting with Scarr, whom Sibeko says informed the SETA that she is currently hospitalised. “Once we have met with her, we will inform you with regards to the legal steps taken against Ms Bridget Scarr.”
[Through its PR agency, Hummingbird Group has since denied that Scarr had been hospitalised, saying she had been following her doctor’s instructions when she postponed meetings planned for last week, following an illness. — ed]
Responsible for fees
Trevor W Harper, registrar at the AFDA Johannesburg Campus, confirmed events, but noted that he was “unable to confirm nor deny any standing relationship between the MICT SETA and Pollen TV [part of the Hummingbird Group]”. Harper continued by saying “[w]hat is important to know [is] that students sign an enrolment and tuition agreement with us as the service provider and are responsible for their fees, irrespective of where funding comes from. We do not enter into an agreement with third parties whatsoever.”
The Hummingbird Group was offered a right of reply. It follows below.
Right of reply – Hummingbird Group
The Hummingbird Group is very surprised by these alleged official statements coming from MICT SETA as there are several confidentiality clauses in all of the SETA contracts and the working relationship with SETA has been very good to date.
From the Hummingbird Group side these relationships were managed by Bridget Scarr and Matsobane Lebelo, who is also a certified SETA programme coordinator and the relationship manager on all the contracts.
As the Hummingbird Group alerted SETA to irregularities in paperwork it would expect SETA to raise any issues with the group directly if they were unhappy with anything regarding the contracts. To date no such query has been received.
The Hummingbird Group is still expecting payments from SETA as part of the current contracts. Currently, there are two active contracts in place with SETA and neither one has been completed to date. As long as the contracts have not been completed and audited any allegations would seem unsubstantiated and premature at best.
For all outstanding payments to AFDA there is also a payment plan in place with the Hummingbird Group, which was agreed upon by both parties.
It would seem, based on the questions posed by Mark Lives, that certain individuals are trying to use the press for their personal commercial advantage with compete disregard for the law, strict contracts and NDAs and the welfare of all former and current employees of the group. The group suspects the same people behind these claims as the first that were published on social media and which also have no validity– furthering a damaging and defamatory smear campaign, which is currently under legal investigation.
The Hummingbird Group worked with SETA excellently over the past 5 years without any incident and believes that the MICT SETA programmes are highly beneficial for the industry at large. The group is saddened that anonymous individuals are trying to smear the name of SETA and the Hummingbird Group as the damage could be detrimental to these programmes as a whole.
Hummingbird Group continues to work with the SETA to resolve all challenges, as per our contracted agreement.
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Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com. He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.
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