Staff accuse minister as works showdown looms - Times LIVE
Mon May 29 13:23:47 SAST 2017

Staff accuse minister as works showdown looms

SIBUSISO NGALWA and MOIPONE MALEFANE | 2011-10-02 00:57:09.0
Public Works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde. File photo.
Image by: Bafana Mahlangu

Parliament has been asked to intervene in the impasse between Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and her senior managers amid allegations of maladministration and bullying by her "Idi Amin" advisers.

A showdown is also looming in parliament where Mahlangu-Nkabinde, national police commissioner General Bheki Cele and public protector Thuli Madonsela will appear before a joint portfolio committee meeting on October 10 to deal with Madonsela's reports into the R2-billion SA Police Service lease deals.

Also invited to appear are suspended officials including a former director-general in the Department of Public Works, Sam Vukela, who has challenged the minister's decision to place him on "special leave". Another former director-general suspended by Mahlangu-Nkabinde, Siviwe Dongwana, has also been invited to appear.

"We have invited everyone who was involved in the saga," said public works portfolio committee chairwoman Manana Mabuza.

The meeting in parliament follows the committee being sent an anonymous letter making allegations against Mahlangu-Nkabinde and asking for parliament's intervention.

In it, one of her advisers is accused of being an "Idi Amin" who ill-treats staff, threatening them with dismissal at every turn.

Mabuza refused to discuss the anonymous letter, saying that she had not seen it - although, according to Sunday Times sources, it was forwarded to her committee's secretary on September 21.

Other allegations are that service delivery has stopped while the department enters into questionable contracts with companies.

On Monday last week, the department authorised payment of R192945 to a public relations company, Siyeluleka Consulting, said to be for working on the department's annual report and writing the minister's foreword. The company was also to provide the director-general's input for the report, a total of six days' work.

This is despite the department having its own communications unit and the minister having two spokesmen.

The authorisation was signed by acting director-general Mandla Mabuza on September 26, even though it was pointed out to him that the company had been appointed without due process being followed.

In a memo to Mandla Mabuza, chief financial officer Cathy Motsitsi stated that the company was appointed on the recommendation of Mahlangu-Nkabinde's adviser, Boogie Khutsoane.

"There was not [sic] proper terms of reference and scope of the work and hence there was no quotation and order form. The rate per hour and total costs could not be contained as the scope was not defined," Motsitsi's memo reads.

The department's senior managers were not satisfied with the work done by Siyeluleka and pointed out that the foreword "will need serious changes".

The department also paid R487900 to former SABC political editor Abbey Makoe's company Mpine Consulting for organising two press conferences for Mahlangu-Nkabinde, in June and July. Of this amount, R155 040 was for "media lobbying" and R57000 for "crisis management".

Staff who spoke to the Sunday Times raised questions about Mahlangu-Nkabinde's decisions and those of her advisers.

"How do you pay a company so much just for calling a press conference?" said a staffer who wished to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.

In response, Mahlangu-Nkabinde's office rubbished the allegations and distanced the minister from the department's procurement processes.

"The procurement of the services of Siyeluleka Consulting was meant to assist in the drafting of the annual report and ensuring an independent review of the work that the department had concluded in the drafting of the annual report. We dismiss any insinuation that this company was only procured for the drafting of the minister's foreword. This is far from the truth," said a statement from the minister's office.

"[We] will not entertain baseless gossip and rumours that may come from anonymous sources. These are but desperate measures that seek to discredit the [minister's] office."


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