Travelgate informer wins round in court

18 September 2011 - 03:06

Parliament could face a R1-million legal bill after losing the latest round in a running battle with its former chief financial officer, Harry Charlton.

On Friday the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside a Labour Appeals Court order that granted parliament permission to exempt Charlton, the Travelgate whistle-blower, from the Protected Disclosures' Act when it fired him in 2006.

John McRobert, Charlton's legal representative, said the court ruling meant the matter would now go to the labour court for a hearing on the merits of his client's dismissal.

"Our view has always been that parliament is trying to delay," McRobert said.

"Thankfully he's prevailed now, and with costs, so we can go to court and ventilate the whole matter on the merits."

Charlton's victory means that parliament will now have to pay the full costs of the appeal process, including the fees of senior counsel.

A source close to the legal process, who asked not to be named, said parliament faced a legal bill of at least R1-million.

Secretary to parliament Zingile Dingani on Friday declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the court ruling.

"You are the first person to call me about this. I've not heard anything about it, not even my legal people have told me about it so I have no comment to make."

Charlton was dismissed for "work-related misconduct", but he insisted that he had been sacked for blowing the whistle on the abuse of parliament's travel scheme by MPs which involved more than R16-million.

He challenged his axing, arguing it was unfair because the information he provided was covered by the Protected Disclosures' Act.

But parliament argued that MPs were neither employees nor employers in terms of the act.

The Labour Court dismissed parliament's application for exception, but the case went to the Labour Appeals Court which upheld the exception application.

Charlton then challenged this ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeals.