Whistle-blower faces wrath of Northern Cape legislature

2017-08-06 07:20
Auditor general Kimi Makwetu. (Netwerk24)

Auditor general Kimi Makwetu. (Netwerk24)

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The ANC in the Northern Cape legislature has threatened to suspend a whistle-blower who wrote to the Auditor-General complaining about financial irregularities.

Mpho Merriman, a communications practitioner in the legislature and a National Education and Health Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) representative, also warned Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s office not to allow officials in the Northern Cape legislature to “negotiate” or adjust his findings. She had copied the speaker, Kenny Mmoiemang, in the email, hoping she would be protected.

Defending herself against the legislature’s threat to suspend her, Merriman said she had acted within the legislature’s own whistle-blower policy, which encouraged staff to help fight corruption, and also as a Nehawu representative.

Merriman, who wrote to Makwetu on July 25, said she and other Nehawu officials were aware that, during the 2016/17 audit process, the Auditor-General had raised serious questions regarding payments.

“The question that should be asked by the Auditor-General is why the [legislature] wants to negotiate this finding at all costs.”

She said it was important for the Auditor-General to perform an audit independently, adding that the Auditor-General had previously failed to verify an amount of R116 301.87 paid to chief financial officer Garth Botha as a leave payout.

“We fail to see how the audit team failed to see that this amount was fraudulent and that it was an undue benefit. It escapes our imagination as to how the Auditor-General failed to see that the notification period was less than 24 hours and yet the full amount was paid.”

According to a 2014 letter that City Press has seen, Botha had been offered a promotion from manager in finance to chief financial officer. He then asked to resign, get a payout for leave days not taken and to take up the new post the next day.

Merriman also alleged that an amount of R367 788.18 was paid to the legislature’s secretary, Patrick Moopelwa, along with an additional R13 870.24 monthly payment. A legislature memorandum dated July 2016 stated that, in terms of the public service handbook, Moopelwa qualified for a monthly allowance calculated at 10% of his “annual all-inclusive remuneration package, divided by 12”. The allowance was backdated to March 2014 when he was appointed.

“This is fraud as section 9 of chapter 3 of the Public Service Act is not applicable to the legislature,” Merriman said, adding that Moopelwa was aware that he was appointed under the Northern Cape Legislature Service Act of 2011 and had therefore unduly benefited by a total amount of R534 231.06 since last year.

“We want to reiterate that the previous financial year’s finding [of a clean audit] was not a true reflection of the books of the Northern Cape provincial legislature.”

On Tuesday last week, the same day that Merriman wrote to Makwetu, she received a letter of intention to suspend her from the legislature. The letter, sent by Moopelwa, said there were serious misconduct allegations against Merriman that required urgent investigation.

Moopelwa said the letter to Makwetu undermined the Auditor-General’s credibility and also brought the legislature into disrepute.

“Furthermore, it is also alleged that you breached confidentiality by inappropriate use and or disclosure of confidential information ... and theft of official information of the [legislature].

“The above misconduct is unacceptable and [unwarranted], and amounts to very serious misconduct that negatively impacts on the trust relationship between you and the employer,” Moopelwa said, adding that he was also of the view that Merriman’s presence in the workplace would hinder his investigation.

Both the legislature and the Auditor-General referred questions on the details to the other. Legislature spokesperson Mpho Masina said no wrongdoing had been found in the 2016/17 audit process, thus the institution got its second clean audit. Auditor-General spokesperson Africa Boso said “the audit opinion issued on the legislature was satisfactorily dealt with in accordance with our audit standards”.

Read more on:    anc  |  kimi makwetu

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