Municipal staff gagged

2009-11-27 00:00

MSUNDUZI municipal manager Rob Haswell has chosen to go after the whistleblowers rather than the culprits abusing the overtime system.

In a strongly worded staff communique on Thursday, November 19, Haswell said there will be an investigation into the leaks to The Witness. He was referring to a front-page story in which the newspaper reported exorbitant overtime claims by municipal employees. For example, a security officer in training was getting just over R52 000 a month and a refuse collector was collecting R20 000.

In Circular No. 50, Haswell says: “The Witness boldly stated that they are in possession of copies of municipal payslips!”

He cites the section on the “unauthorised disclosure of information” from the Municipal Systems Act, part of which reads: “A staff member of a municipality may not without permission disclose any privileged or confidential information obtained as a staff member of the municipality to an unauthorised person.”

Haswell goes on to say the investigation is not to hide or suppress the truth. “On the contrary, we all have a duty in terms of the Code of Conduct to act, but not to leak information, which is often inaccurate and smears the integrity of every single staff member of the municipality. We are not all corrupt! Many of us have worked honestly and diligently for many years. We care deeply about our municipality and our city. Yet we are now all seen as corrupt fat cats!”

He adds that five employees have been dismissed this year for fraud and that he will not tolerate breaches of the Code of Conduct that denigrate all staff.

The Witness sent Haswell the following questions on Tuesday. To date there has been no response.

• Why are you certain that the payslips came to The Witness via a municipal employee?

• You say you are going to launch an investigation in terms of the Municipality’s Code of Conduct as the information “leaked is often inaccurate and smears the integrity of every single staff member of the municipality”. If the information published about the overtime was inaccurate, why did you not correct this and what is the correct information?

• In your communiqué you make a link between the story of abuse by certain individuals of the overtime system and the newspaper denigrating all employees at the municipality. Surely it is those few individuals abusing the overtime system who are bringing the municipality into disrepute. What is being done to bring those individuals to book?

• Have you launched an investigation into this overtime abuse? What is the status of this investigation?

• Were any of the five people you refer to who were dismissed this year dismissed because of overtime fraud? If yes, how many of them, in all, and what amounts were involved?

• Is your communiqué not a case of going after the whistleblower rather than dealing with the substantive issue of overtime abuse? We ask this particularly in the light of Exco’s constant requests for over a year that overtime claims within the municipality be brought under control.

Yesterday an e-mail reminder, voice-mail call and SMS were sent to Haswell asking when he would reply. No response was received.

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