Public Protector clears Gordhan of any wrongdoing in alleged irregular appointment of chief of staff

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Pravin Gordhan.
Pravin Gordhan.
  • Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has cleared Pravin Gordhan after a complaint that he irregularly appointed Nthabiseng Borotho as his chief of staff. 
  • Gcaleka found that despite Borotho not having the requisite qualification, Gordhan had sought the necessary approval from the Department of Public Services and Administration. 
  • In November 2020, the Department of Public Enterprises came under fire for appointing Borotho because she didn’t meet the minimum requirements for the position. 

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has cleared Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan following a complaint that he appointed Nthabiseng Borotho as chief of staff despite prima facie evidence that she did not possess the minimum requirements for the post.

"On the basis of evidence uncovered during the investigation and the relevant regulatory framework, the Public Protector's office found that the minister did not act in violation of the Executive Code of Ethics when he appointed Ms Borotho as chief of staff," acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday.  

"The minister appointed Ms Borotho to the position in question in line with regulations of the public service regulations whereby he sought approval in as envisaged from former minister of the Department of Public Service and Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu by way of a deviation from Borotho's lack of formal qualification for the post."

Borotho's appointment as chief of staff in 2020 was met by public outrage at the time, given that she did not have the academic qualifications required for the position.

Further compounding the situation was that she was also accused of hiring her relative to fill a receptionist position in the department's Cape Town office.

The department confirmed this but said the relative's appointment was made on an emergency basis because the position became vacant with the change from the fifth to the sixth administration.

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Further controversy emerged when Gordhan's spokesperson Sam Mkokeli resigned over the matter.

Mkokeli's resignation came days after he challenged the minister over his alleged decision to hire a forensic company to sniff out whistleblowers who exposed him for appointing Borotho.

Gcaleka found that from the evidence submitted, the department's appointment of the forensic company "did not amount to improper conduct as contemplated in the constitution and maladministration in line with the Public Protector Act".

As per the Public Service Act, a tertiary degree is a requirement for holding the chief-of-staff position. Despite this, Borotho only had a diploma in human resources, which she obtained in 1999 from Varsity College.

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Gordhan applied to the public service and administration minister for a deviation in respect of the tertiary qualification requirement to appoint Borotho to the position, based on her experience in the public service, having worked at four different ministries.

"The appointment took cognisance of Ms Borotho's competence, experience, as well as recognition of prior learning, an established concept in skills development.

"Ms Borotho was duly appointed after approval was granted by the ministry of public service and administration, in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Act. Thus, Ms Borotho's appointment was done with absolute compliance to public service requirements, regulations, and the law," the department said at the time.

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