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Dept ‘not aware of’ AG enquiry

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The department must also answer for a R53 019 salary increase that was awarded to the MEC’s media liaison officer, Patsy Alley, that was backdated to the date of appointment on November 2016, which went against the advice of the chief financial offic

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THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison has claimed ignorance regarding an enquiry that was apparently sent from the auditor-general’s office to investigate possible irregular expenditure incurred through questionable appointments and promotions.

In correspondence, the auditor-general requested the department to make a written submission by close of day on July 27 regarding the appointment of the senior manager in the directorate of policy and planning at the department, Renee Williams, after she had resigned from the department in May.

The post of the senior manager of policy and planning was recently advertised at salary level 13 with an annual income of R898 743.

The approval to extend Williams’ contract, which had come to an end on July 31 this year, until January 31, 2018, only carries the signature of the head of department (HOD).

Williams apparently accompanied the MEC on an official trip to the Eastern Cape last week – a provincial visit to the Coega Development Corporation special economic zone in Port Elizabeth and the East London Industrial Development Zone from July 31 until August 4.

The chief financial officer (CFO) had advised that human resources management did not support the decision to extend Williams’ contract for another six months.

It was noted in the submission that due to budgetary restraints the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism had frozen vacant posts and prevented the advertising and filling of posts.

The letter, however, highlighted the urgency in filling this critical post as it required a high level of expertise.

The department must also answer for a R53 019 salary increase that was awarded to the MEC’s media liaison officer, Patsy Alley, that was backdated to the date of appointment on November 2016, which went against the advice of the chief financial officer.

Alley is employed as a deputy director, on salary level 12, and the MEC had also advised that Alley’s salary should be increased.

The auditor-general is querying why no evidence exists that any job evaluation was performed before the increase was awarded.

Three officials who were suspended on full pay received arbitration awards of between R125 000 to R150 000 after they were charged with insubordination, leaking information and refusing to take orders from the former HOD.

The awards were paid out by the department despite recommendations that the matter be taken on appeal.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) provincial secretary, Boitumelo Pheleo, stated that they were in the process of registering grievances after disputes were raised from members regarding transfers that were made without consultation from any union.

“There was no reason provided, other than ‘to enhance service delivery’. We are calling for the removal of the MEC, HOD and head of ministry as they are pursuing their own interests, to the detriment of employees. The unions are being undermined.”

Pheleo pointed out that while the powers to appoint staff, implement salary increases and extend contracts rested with the MEC, it had to be upon recommendation of the HOD.

Spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Keitumetse Moticoe, was “not aware of any enquiry from the auditor-general”.

“If there are such enquiries, it means there must be a finding from the auditor-general and we have not yet received such communication.”

She explained that Williams’ contract was extended until the post of senior manager for policy and planning was filled.

“The post was advertised with support from the CFO and all procedures were followed and was authorised by the Provincial Treasury. The CFO signed the submission supporting the advertisement of this post so we are not aware of the said allegations of the CFO disapproving the submission. The post is still vacant and the closing date for the post is August 11, 2017.”

Moticoe acknowledged that many posts at the department had not been filled yet.

“The department and Provincial Treasury are in the process of conducting verifications that will further guide the process.

“The Public Service Act, 103, 1994; section 14 gives the employer authority to transfer staff.”

She indicated that the department was under no obligation to consult with unions before staff members were transferred.

“In this case, staff members were consulted and consented to their transfers.”

She pointed out that the arbitration award was paid out to the three officials who were suspended on full pay as the department had failed to charge them successfully.

“They contested their suspensions until they were given an arbitration award. During their suspensions they were paid salaries but they did not get their performance bonuses and salary pay progression. The HOD, as the employer representative, may decide not to proceed with a case if he/she believes that there are no prospects of winning the case. In this case there are no prospects of winning the case on review.”

The auditor-general’s office did not respond to media enquiries.