Consumer commissioner set for showdown with dti

2012-05-12 11:02

Courtroom battle looms as Mohlala-Mulaudzi and director-general October trade punches in a classic he said, she said

National Consumer Commissioner (NCC) Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi and her employer, the minister of trade and industry, are set for a courtroom showdown after the department advertised her position last week, in effect meaning she would be out of a job come September.

In Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s firing line is the director-general of the department of trade and industry (dti), Lionel October, whom Mohlala-Mulaudzi accuses in a complaint to the Public Protector of withholding money due to the NCC, interfering with her duties and trying to push her out of her job.

In the papers prepared for the Public Protector, Mohlala-Mulaudzi says the department withheld her budget for half of the financial year and spent some of it on projects she was consulted on and did not commission.

She said October had given the false impression to the trade unions that she had resisted signing the transfer of staff from the department to the NCC, when in fact October had not informed her she needed to sign the documents.

Mohlala-Mulaudzi was appointed as head of the NCC after a public fallout with then minister of communication Siphiwe Nyanda.

She and Nyanda reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which included her being employed in a different state department on the same conditions as she was as director-general in Nyanda’s department. As head of the NCC, she is on the same level as she was.

Mohlala-Mulaudzi asserts that “based on the above transgressions and sequence of events, it gives rise to the impression that the conduct of the director-general of the trade and industry department is aimed at the level of delivery of the institution, or alternatively at frustrating the commissioner out of her job”.

She said in terms of her contract, she was entitled to a renewal because she was appointed in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, which sets the term for the NCC to be five years. She said she had not only met her performance targets, but had exceeded them.

October hit back with accusations of impropriety and accused Mohlala-Mulaudzi of blocking the Auditor-General when his officials attempted to audit the NCC.

The Auditor-General’s spokesperson, Tsale Makam, could not confirm October’s allegation, but said there was a team working at the NCC.

However, the AG’s report showed a positive reflection of her department’s performance.

October acknowledged taking over the budget, but said he took over the finances of the NCC because the outfit did not have financial systems in place.

“As the accounting officer of the 16 agencies that (fall under the department of trade and industry), I am responsible for the distribution of funds to them. It would have been irresponsible for me to transfer the money before there were systems in place.
“We could not transfer funds to them until they had systems in place like appointing a CFO, an independent audit committee. It took her three to four months to put the systems in place. There was no abuse of power.”

October accused Mohlala-Mulaudzi of flouting financial governance rules and blocking the office of the Auditor-General.

“Our fears were confirmed when the Auditor-General told us that he was going to issue a disclaimer, which is worse than a qualified. The department has never had a qualified audit,” said October.

October told City Press that they would contest Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s court action.

He said Mohlala-Mulaudzi was hired in the aftermath of the department of communications court action.

At the time of her departure from the department of communications, she had 18 months of her contract to go. Her appointment as NCC was therefore for the remainder of the communications department contract, which expired at the end of August.

“In February the minister told her she was free to apply for the position like everyone else. It was after the advert was placed that she threatened court action and started this media campaign. We will oppose the matter because we regard it as frivolous and vexatious,” said October.

Mohlala-Mulaudzi and October stuck to their respective versions of whether the staff transferred to the NCC were happy to work under Mohlala-Mulaudzi.

Her contention is that only 11 of 67 employees signed a petition that they were unhappy, while the rest signed a counterpetition backing her.

She said she was aware that her fight with two of her political bosses could create the impression that she was hard to work with.

“I believe I should be judged on the merits of my case and not my personality.

“I am a person who believes in fighting for what’s right. I stand up for my rights even if it means being unpopular or regarded as a hothead.”

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