Unions fight plan to fix public works mess

2012-08-11 15:15

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) over his bid to turn the struggling department around.

Nehawu has lodged a dispute with the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council against what it calls Nxesi’s “unilateral” turnaround strategy.

Department insiders say Nxesi is battling to get buy-in from staff members who belong to Nehawu.

The union wants Nxesi, a former unionist, to “immediately” stop all activities related to the turnaround plan which, according to documents leaked to City Press, may cost the department nearly R600 million if the treasury approves funding.

The department, though, told City Press money was not yet available for the ambitious project.

According to sources within Nehawu, a number of meetings convened by the bargaining council to intervene in the dispute have broken down.

Unionists, the sources say, have refused to meet consultants brought in by Nxesi because they are not members of the bargaining council.

A senior Nehawu branch leader said: “Only we can turn around public works. We are the employees of the public works department and the minister has brought in consultants from all over, including the private property sector, to deal with the core functions of the department.”

Documents leaked to City Press reveal that the department believes R590 million will be needed for the strategy to sort out irregular leases and properly register all buildings belonging to government.

Nehawu has warned Nxesi he will find it difficult to fix the department without the staff members he’s allegedly sidelined.

Sources say Nxesi has appointed various specialists to his core turnaround team, including project managers, monitoring and evaluation specialists, built environment specialists, change and communication managers, property managers, and financial managers. Public works acting director-general Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie urged Nehawu members and employees to work with the department to develop a “blueprint” for the turnaround.

“The budget thereof has not been confirmed. Therefore, any figure that is bandied around is incorrect and speculative,” said Fatyela-Lindie.

“There is currently no blueprint on the so-called ‘turnaround strategy’, as this will bedeveloped through a consultative process and engagements with (departmental) employees, labour unions and other stakeholders,” she said.

She said the process, spearheaded by Nxesi, was aimed at achieving a clean audit, dealing with internal audit capacity to conduct investigations and enforcing compliance and weaknesses in the tender process.


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