Three positions, six employees, salaries totalling R2.2 million

2014-08-10 15:00

Three positions, six employees: that’s the predicament the North West education department is in – allegedly because of interference in three appointments.

In each case, the person who actually performed best in the tests and interviews successfully challenged the department.

Now it is paying double in salaries – a total of R2.2?million – and has been forced to find vacant positions for the applicants who challenged it.

In the first case, in 2009, the department interviewed three women for the position of area manager in the Vryburg district.

Then head of department Errol Gradwell appointed the third-best candidate.

A senior official in the department, speaking on condition of anonymity, blamed the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in the province for what had happened.

“Sadtu didn’t want number one to get the job. They wanted number two to become the area manager. They pressured Gradwell.”

The first candidate successfully challenged the third’s appointment.

“She was given a circuit manager position in Taung to appease her, but she is earning the salary of an area manager. The third-best candidate cannot be removed by law,” the official said.

An area manager earns about R500?000 a year.

The official could not say why Sadtu had opposed the best candidate. “In most cases, they want their own people.”

Sadtu’s outgoing secretary in North West, Thabo Sematle, said: “We don’t influence, we don’t exchange cash. We were not involved. If we were, let us be given the details so that we can follow up with our members.”

Contacted for comment, Gradwell said: “How can you expect me to remember appointments I made in 2009? That is five years ago.”

Brian Setswambung, the education department’s spokesperson, said the first candidate would be placed in an “equivalent position” when one became available.

He could not say why she wasn’t appointed in the first place.

In the second case, from 2011, a deputy director in quality assurance became chief director in the infrastructure department.

“He didn’t have the technical know-how, the qualifications and relevant experience. Somebody who had also applied for the position and had the qualifications and the experience lodged a dispute and won,” the official told City Press.

“We had to find a vacant post for him as a district director in Vryburg.”

The official accused former education MEC Raymond Elisha of favouring the less qualified candidate.

“Both were SACP [SA Communist Party] members and the [candidate] was also very close to Sadtu,” alleged the official, claiming that Sadtu members in the department had threatened the candidate who challenged the appointment not to go to interviews.

Setswambung said he had no knowledge of Elisha influencing the process.

Elisha, now the MEC for public works in the province, said: “The post was advertised, people were short-listed and interviewed. An appointment was made and it had nothing to do with the fact that we were both SACP members or he was close to Sadtu.”

The department is paying both a chief director’s salary – about R935?000 a year.

Also in 2011, a former Sadtu deputy secretary in the province was appointed human resources director with just four months’ experience.

“He used the union’s influence to get the job. He was preferred over somebody with 17 years’ experience. The guy who lost disputed the appointment and he won,” said the source.

Setswambung acknowledged there was a dispute in this case, which the department lost. “The guy who lodged a dispute has been transferred to head office pending the finalisation of the realignment of the organisational structure.”

He added that both candidates had been recommended for appointment. Sadtu, he said, did not influence appointments.

Both employees are earning about R771?350 a year.

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