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Demoted director must be reinstated into her position

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The reason given for the demotion as a result of refusing to carry out an illegal instruction from the HOD.

THE DEPARTMENT of Education has been instructed to reinstate Claudette Wood into her position as director with immediate effect, after she was demoted to a deputy director.

The General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) ordered that she be compensated for three months of her current salary to the value of R164 466.75 for the unfair labour practice and this had to be paid before December 15.

Wood was demoted from a director in security and records management to a deputy director on April 4 2016 where she was transferred to another unit in the sub-directorate diversity, women, children and disability.

Wood’s attorney, FM Amade, stated that her demotion was “irrational, unlawful and invalid”.

He pointed out that she was victimised over a period of time and was demoted in April 2016 by the head of department (HOD) Tshepo Pharasi after exposing corruption

“This was nothing else but a culmination of sustained retribution and vindictive actions. The demotion was actuated by ulterior motives, vengeance and a malicious desire to victimise the applicant.”

Amade pointed out that in 2011 Wood refused to carry out an illegal instruction received from the HOD relating to a tender for the provision of security services in the department.

“He instructed Wood to obtain documents from a service provider after a tender closed so that the service provider bid, could be ‘responsive’. Wood refused to carry out the instruction as it contravened proper supply chain management practices.”

He added that she had exposed millions of rands worth of corruption in the department where services that were not rendered were paid to Ous Meisies Guest House.

“According to documents submitted to the Hawks, the HOD was involved in this during June and July 2012. The applicant signed a statement with the Hawks in June 2015.”

Amade stated that Wood was consequently prohibited from attending broad management team meetings since 2013.

“These meetings are attended by all directors and executive managers, which Wood participated in since 2006.”

He indicated that she instantly received a letter of demotion in April 2016 when she was requested by the MEC to attend a management meeting that she was prohibited from attending by the HOD.

He stated that Wood, instead, became the subject of an investigation in 2013 based on “spurious allegations” where she was never informed about the outcome.

“She never saw a copy of the investigation.”

Amade claimed that no annual evaluations were performed where Wood was never compensated.

“This leads us to no other conclusion than that the HOD acted vindictively, unreasonably irrationally and unlawfully.”

GPSSBC panelist, Lufuno Ramabulana, indicated that the performance agreement existed for a director from 2013 to 2014, where the director was amended with a pen to reflect “head” from 2015 to 2016.

“From 2015 to 2016 the title director was amended to state head. It is not clear why the title was later amended or if the terms of an agreement existed between the parties and if Wood was aware of the deletion/insertion.”

The GPSSBC indicated that Wood had served in the position of a director in supply chain management since 2008, in terms of a performance agreement that was signed by both parties.

“Prior to that she was placed at salary level 13, this is the same salary level of a director. The challenge is on the change in stature from director to deputy director. It is evident that if Wood retained the salary level 13, a lot would be affected by the movement in status.”

According to the Department of Education, they were “merely correcting an irregular appointment and misconceptions that existed within the system”.

The executive authority had appointed Wood as a director in supply chain management as the only existing deputy director post was already filled at the time.

This resulted in her having an elevated status, more duties and responsibilities although she remained on a salary level 13 notch.

The department indicated that the transfer was not due to a disciplinary process.

Ramabulana noted that the Public Service Commission had also ruled in Wood’s favour.

“It appears as if the only reason for the transfer was for the process of effecting what the respondent calls the ‘correction of an irregular appointment’. It is not clear why the correction was coupled with a transfer to another unit.”

He pointed out that it was not the duty of commissioners to review and/or determine if appointments were irregular or not, unless there were competing claims of entitlement from unsuccessful candidates.

“Even in that case Commissioners do not really have the powers to unappoint the appointed candidate.”

Ramabulana stated that a decision taken in 2008 and 2012 could not be changed arbitrarily without following due processes.

“The correction of own decision like an appointment cannot be resolved through consultation as this are not matters for such a process.

Spokesperson for the Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, indicated that the department was taking advice on the matter.

“The department is studying the arbitration award to determine our options.”