Public Works admits to irregular appointment

2012-06-30 15:53

Cronin says it was a technical error caused by HR

The department of public works has admitted it irregularly appointed a well-paid special adviser to Minister Thulas Nxesi – and that a human resources department glitch saw the adviser being paid double what he should have earned in three months.

But the department is blaming the situation on its own officials, saying some people were trying to “sabotage” efforts to appoint Phillip Masilo as a special ministerial adviser.

Nxesi is now asking his department’s compliance inspectorate unit to condone the payments made to Masilo between November last year and February this year.

The unit is investigating Masilo’s appointment and will have to determine whether the payments and the appointment of Masilo constitute irregular expenditure,

non-compliance or a deviation from tender processes.

Masilo is a director at Johannesburg law firm Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom Attorneys.

In the past two years the department has suspended seven senior officials for alleged mismanagement and corruption, particularly related to tender irregularities.

Jeremy Cronin, deputy minister of public works, told City Press the problem began when the department’s human resources unit failed to complete Masilo’s appointment in November last year.

His annual salary package was set at R1 120 935. But because of the unit’s error, Nxesi was forced to allow Masilo to work and invoice the department at a rate of R2 080 per hour.

“It took nearly three months for our department to sort out his appointment. That might have been deliberate slowness. It’s not proven but a lot of the problems encountered around the challenges of the department relate to a strong likelihood of sabotage (by department officials),” Cronin said.

“The minister inadvertently made this appointment and we seek condonation for it. It was an irregular technical error that will be reported to Treasury if there’s proof it is irregular. There’s no pretending that there wasn’t something irregular but the minister had good reasons for it.”

City Press has seen documents which reveal that Masilo, who would have been paid just under R100 000 per month if he’d been properly appointed, billed the department R214 593.60 for work he did in November, R172 439.80 for December and R230 493.52 for work done in January.

Cronin said the rate of R2 080 per hour was determined by the public service and administration department in terms of the Public Service Act.

Public works’ director-general, Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie, claimed that disgruntled employees were deliberately leaking documents to the media to frustrate the department’s turnaround strategy.

“Investigations by the Special Investigating Unit, the public protector and the auditor-general have revealed a lot of corruption and fraud and when you start to unravel that and try to deal with it, you make certain people in the department unhappy,” said Fatyela-Lindie.

Masilo echoed Cronin and Fatyela-Lindie’s sentiments.

“These are petty issues made by officials who are against the process of the turnaround strategy. Coincidentally, leaks to the media started when officials were being suspended. What happened may be irregular, but it is not unlawful,” said Masilo.

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