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‘Tidy up the ship’: Calls for new inquiry into Buma

A coalition of musicians, songwriters, lawyers and accountants have called for further investigation into the accounts of embattled Dutch performance rights organisation (PRO) Buma/Stemra, in order to “heal the wounds” left by years of alleged financial mismanagement.

Buma/Stemra CEO Wim van Limpt in August announced a slate of reforms he said would transform the PRO into a more “market-oriented, viable and transparent organisation” after law firm NautaDutilh discovered €6m of irregularities in its 2015–16 books.

That, however, doesn’t go far enough, says KleanMusiK, a collective that assists songwriters in disputes with their publishers or PROs. Under the banner ‘Schoon schip maken’ – a Dutch idiom meaning to put one’s house in order (literally “tidy up the ship”) – the organisation has written a petition it intends to present to the Buma/Stemra board at the latter’s general meeting on 30 October, outlining nine motions it says, if adopted, would go some way towards regaining public trust in the PRO.

The motions include Buma sharing reports and financial data with members, appointing an external auditor to look into its accounts, answering members’ questions on the society’s financial status and providing data on royalty pay-outs.

More than 80 people have already signed the petition.

 


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Buma/Stemra delays annual report after financial “errors”

Buma/Stemra has postponed the publication of its 2016 annual report after an investigation turned up “errors” in its financial reporting, its CEO has announced.

Wim van Limpt, who has led the Dutch collection society since 2016, has promised a package of reforms to make Buma/Stemra a more “market-oriented, viable and transparent organisation”, after law firm NautaDutilh discovered irregularities – including unacceptably high costs, amounting to a “failure to comply with accounting rules” – in its provisional 2016 accounts.

“I regret the results of the investigation but am relieved that questions have now been answered and measures can be taken to fix the mistakes,” he told Buma/Stemra’s board and more than 26,000 members on Monday. “With the additional measures and the already initiated organisational improvements, nothing stands in the way of becoming the kind of organisation that should be expected of us.”

Van Limpt (pictured) brought in NautaDutilh as an auditor earlier this year after his queries about Buma/Stemra’s accounts “could not be answered internally”, he explains. The firm discovered Buma/Stemra’s board of directors were “not adequately informed about important financial decisions” – and, most damningly, that there was a “culture of budgeting” at the organisation that caused large amounts of money to be set aside as a ‘buffer’ in case of financial difficulties.

According to the NRC Handelsblad, the former management had, by the end of 2015 alone, managed to set aside around €6 million by not recording suppliers’ invoices in Buma/Stemra’s books.

“I regret the results of the investigation but am relieved that questions have now been answered”

“These costs […] were not included in the bookkeeping, and were not always recorded at the time that the costs were actually incurred,” says spokesman Frank Janssen.

Buma/Stemra declined to comment on any disciplinary action against the employees concerned.

Buma/Stemra’s former CEO, Hein van der Ree, left the organisation in early 2016 as his salary exceeded that allowed by a Dutch law regulating public-sector pay.

Van Limpt says the corrected annual report will be published shortly, following the implementation of a system of “high-quality, transparent and automated data processing” of its accounts. “The annual accounts will be drawn up on the basis of the findings and presented to members for approval at an extra general members’ meeting to be held soon,” he explains.

IQ revealed last year that Buma – the PRO component of Buma/Stemra, with Stemra overseeing mechanical rights – was to abolish its controversial practice of offering live tariff rebates to promoters after consulting with “all market players, including authors and performers”.

 


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