Nehawu and the PSA called for the suspension of the chief financial officer, the chief director of corporate services and the chief director of services delivery programmes.
THE NATIONAL Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) staged a lunchtime picket outside the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture offices in Kimberley yesterday, where they called for the suspension of the chief financial officer, the chief director of corporate services and the chief director of services delivery programmes.
Allegations that were levelled against them include the mismanagement of public funds relating to a “ghost festival” that was supposed to be held in Colesberg on December 16, 2016.
A R1 million tender was awarded to Traffic Events Management to organise the Umsobomvu Youth Tourism and Cultural festival, although the event never took place.
The public protector in 2020 ruled that public funds were misappropriated and that the department had acted improperly, where the head of department (HOD) at the time, Ruth Palm, had flouted the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Nehawu branch secretary Moses Vorster stated that other officials who were instrumental in processing this tender were never held accountable.
“They are still in office occupying the same positions and are making financial decisions on behalf of the department. The former HOD is the only individual who faced any repercussions as her contract was terminated,” said Vorster.
The unions are aggrieved that the current HOD has requested evidence regarding the allegations, while they insisted that there was sufficient evidence in the public protector’s report to prosecute them.
“We are not going to allow corruption and maladministration to happen under our watch.
“The chief director of corporate services is out on bail in a criminal matter relating to the ghost festival. The chief director for service delivery programmes collected money from the service provider for the sports awards, where kickbacks were paid to the MEC and the premier of R100,000 each.”
The unions also intend to open charges with the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit, the Auditor-General, the Public Protector’s Office and the Public Service Commissioner.
PSA shop steward Francois Clark stated that according to a Public Service Commission report, the officials approved payments to Siyathemba Logistics instead of paying Siyathemba Municipality, which amounted to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
A spokesperson for the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Morapedi Sekhoane, acknowledged correspondence from Nehawu and the PSA calling for the suspension of the three chief directors.
“The three chief directors include the chief financial officer, the chief director for service delivery and the chief director for corporate services,” said Sekhoane.
“The department is concerned with the allegations of maladministration and misappropriation of funds as raised by the two labour organisations. One of the cardinal pillars of the sixth administration is to root out corruption whenever it rears its ugly head.”
He added that during several engagements with organised labour, the department had encouraged the unions to approach any law enforcement agencies with evidence to prove any wrongdoing by its officials.
“The department is currently investigating and seeking legal advice on the matter and would therefore like to remind the unions that the alleged perpetrators of crime are also protected by legislation governing labour relations, like any employee, until there’s enough evidence to prove otherwise.
“The head of department, Oupa Phiri, will be writing to the chief directors in a bid to grant them an opportunity to obtain their side of the story.”
The department said that letters were issued to the said officials to provide reasons as to why they should not be placed on precautionary suspension.
Sekhoane indicated that the unions were well within their rights to lay criminal charges and engage in lawful pickets and protests.
“The department would like to vehemently deny the allegations that the honourable premier and MEC benefited from kickbacks amounting to R100,000 each. The allegations are absurd and attention seeking.”
He stated that the former HOD, Ruth Palm, was no longer receiving a salary after her contract came to an end a few years ago.