Fingers pointed at dept HR

2013-01-05 00:00

AS the fallout continues over last week’s traffic recruitment tragedy, it appears that the people who were once in charge of the process were sidelined in favour of a unit dealing largely with taxi enforcement.

A Weekend Witness probe has uncovered that instead of the Road Traffic Inspectorate’s (RTI) senior management and the training college handling the process, the latest recruitment drive was undertaken by the Transport Department’s human resources section in conjunction with the Special Operations Unit, which was formerly the Public Transport Enforcement Unit.

A senior transport official, speaking on condition he was not named, insisted that the RTI and training college were involved in the process, and said he had minutes of meetings to prove this.

But, two days later and by the time of going to press, he had failed to turn up with the minutes.

However, Transport Department sources, who spoke on condition they were not named, as they are not authorised to speak to the media, insist that the RTI was left out of the process. RTI was only called in on Thursday. December 27, after the fitness tests started going awry.

Sources said the training college had successfully carried out recruitment exercises for trainee officers for years. This included having to deal with large numbers.

They could not understand why the college was sidelined this time.

Staff are pinning their hopes on a commission of inquiry into the tragedy being held. They say evidence will have to be given under oath and the truth about who was responsible for the botched operation — which led to the deaths of eight people — will come out.

Staff said the KZN Transport Department has a good track record as a government department, and its name should not suffer because of the actions of a few individuals.

Fingers were also pointed at the department’s human resources unit, with a senior official of the unit named as one of the persons who should be held accountable for the debacle.

The official, whose name is known to Weekend Witness, referred queries to the department’s spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane.

Sources said the HR unit should have advised on the cost-effectiveness of accommodating staff in hotels and making them work overtime to whittle down the number of applicants from 150 000 to 35 000.

A civil servant involved in the HR field said the official should have advised her department that it was ludicrous to shortlist 35 000 applicants to be tested for 90 positions.

“It is a situation that creates false hope and, instead of using a fitness test, an easier and safer method, given the sweltering heat, could have been used an aptitude test to sort out prospective candidates instead of a four-kilometre run,” he said.

Questions on these issues were sent to Ncalane, who said the matters were the subject of an internal probe and that he was unable to provide answers at this stage.

Once the preliminary investigation was complete, a report would be sent to Transport MEC Willies Mchunu.

He would in turn submit it to Premier Zweli Mkhize, who has the power to appoint a commission of inquiry into the matter.

Aside from those who died, hundreds were treated for dehydration when 35 000 hopeful recruits were made to run four kilometres in sweltering heat and in shambolic conditions to test their fitness.

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