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Union joins call to suspend HOD

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The matter needed to be dealt with urgently and that immediate action needed to be taken against Palm.

THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) branch at the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has joined the call for the head of the department, Ruth Palm, to be suspended following a report from the Public Protector which implicated her in maladministration.

A report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on an investigation into allegations of improper conduct and maladministration, relating to public funds by the department and the Northern Cape Arts and Culture Council (NCACC), stated that Palm was involved in the procurement of funds awarded to Traffic and Events Management Company (Traffic Events) to host a youth festival that never took place.

The union said yesterday that the matter needed to be dealt with urgently and that immediate action needed to be taken against Palm.

The union’s branch secretary at the department, John Pienaar, said the MEC has “not uttered a word” about how the department will handle the matter.

“The MEC is not taking any kind of action. We asked for a precautionary suspension of Palm following the report by the Public Protector. Palm needs to be suspended to ensure that the investigation into this matter is concluded without any hindrances. How sure are we that she (Palm) will not mess with evidence while the investigation is conducted? There might be other things she might also hide,” said Pienaar.

“The findings and rulings of the report were clear and the MEC needs to play her part in ensuring that this matter is finalised. We are told that the report is being scrutinised, however, there is no indication on when this process will be concluded.”

Pienaar pointed out that the department needs to treat all employees equally. “Palm is a senior official in the department which might be the reason why the department has not suspended her. If it was any other employee then they would have been suspended a long time ago.

“We understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but Palm needs to respect the process and go. We cannot see other employees being suspended and now keep quiet because a senior official is implicated.”

Nehawu provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius called on Premier Zamani Saul to “practise what he preaches”.

“The premier wants a corrupt-free province, however, there is no action taken against those implicated in corruption. This is an opportunity for the premier to take a stance against corruption. If he fails to do so, he will then see us at the State of the Province address,” said Cornelius. The union said that it will hold pickets at the department calling for the suspension of Palm.

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture said last week that MEC Bernice Sinxeve has been studying the Public Protector’s report.

The spokesperson for the department, Conrad Fortune, said at the time that the MEC will relay further details later.