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Union to go to court over Speaker

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‘The Speaker has failed to discharge his obligations in terms of the constitution and all relevant legislation . . .’

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THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) intends filing papers in the Northern Cape High Court in an attempt to force the Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature (NCPL), Kenny Mmoeimang, to deal decisively with alleged incidents of fraud and corruption that were reported to him in March last year.

The union’s national office opened criminal charges against the Deputy Speaker of the legislature, the chief financial officer (CFO), the former acting manager responsible for human capital, the head of staff in the Office of the Speaker and the secretary to the legislature.

The charges relate to payouts, bonuses and leave pay paid out to the CFO as well as the secretary to the legislature.

Nehawu general secretary, Zola Saphetha, said that the union would now approach the Northern Cape High Court to seek a declaratory order to force the Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature to act against corrupt practices and officials at the legislature.

“We believe that the Speaker does not need any legal opinion in order to investigate fraud and financial misconduct in the legislature. We are extremely disappointed by the conduct of the Speaker, who is hell-bent on shielding those who have committed both fraud and corruption,” said Saphetha.

He added that the Speaker was expected to instil public trust in the legislature and protect the integrity of the legislature, as a law-making institution.

“Instead, the Speaker has brought nothing but embarrassment to the staff of the legislature, the people of the Northern Cape and his profession, considering the fact that he was a former practising attorney.

“The Speaker has failed to discharge his obligations in terms of the constitution and all relevant legislation . . . in spite of legal advice.

“As early as November 2017, the state attorney advised the Speaker to investigate these allegations. He also misled the state attorney, because he is not willing to accept their recommendations.”

Saphetha claimed that the Speaker did not produce a single opinion from the Office of the Auditor-General for the Standing Committee on Rules to consider.

He stated that he had also misled the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, and the Minister of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Ayanda Dlodlo, when he advised them that the opinions of the auditor-general and state attorney did not correspond.

“We are convinced that the Speaker is unable to take action because he owes people favours. For example, in 2014 he requested a friend, who was also a service provider to the legislature, to transport him between Kimberley and Johannesburg where the legislature credit card was used to pay for all those trips.

“The Speaker is also believed to be benefiting from the renovations at the legislature precinct in Galeshewe.”

Saphetha said that the new financial code that was formulated last month was designed to give the CFO power to write off debt.

“This policy was supposedly signed by the Speaker in 2013. The backdating of the policy clearly points to the tricks of fraudsters. Such amendments do not exist as there was no consultation with all relevant stakeholders such as Nehawu.

“We know that the intention is to deal with the R2 million credit card fraud which is the subject of a Hawks investigation. This is currently at an advanced stage.”

Spokesperson for the Speaker, Mpho Masina, said that Mmoiemang understood the frustration and impatience of Nehawu and also regarded the allegations involving senior officials in a serious light.

“The Speaker has an interest to protect the legislature from possible litigation from the alleged officials. Thus, due processes need to be thoroughly followed, hence the consultation with the Speaker of Parliament,” said Masina.

“As the legislative sector conforms to the same norms and standards, there is no harm in acquiring extensive advice from relevant stakeholders.

“Consultations with the Public Service and Administration minister are also necessary, particularly in relation to the pension benefit of the Secretary. The DPSA is better positioned to advice on labour-related issues and thus responses to this effect are anticipated.”

She added that, mindful of the fact that the matter is under investigation by the Hawks, the Speaker wished to give them time to conclude the investigations.

“Altercations and unfounded defamatory statements published in the media should not supersede legal and internal consultative processes that must be complied with.”