South Africa

Politics, South Africa

Parliament: Mgidlana placed on special leave

Parliament: Mgidlana placed on special leave

Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana has been put on special leave, pending an investigation into various claims of mismanagement and irregularities levelled against him by National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). Parliament on Friday morning confirmed in a statement the presiding officers granted Mgidlana’s request for special leave, effective immediately. This comes on the day the deadline for the union’s call for his suspension would have expired. By MARIANNE MERTEN

The final straw in the long-standing 20-month saga between Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana and the parliamentary branch of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) seems to have been stalled salary negotiations. This came after the union had raised issues around Mgidlana’s receipt of a bursary, his international and domestic travel, use of blue lights and other matters both internally at Parliament, and through an official complaint to the public protector in July 2016.

With regards to the 2017 salary negotiations, Parliament’s administration claimed there was no money for an annual increase, calling instead for creative solutions, while the union said administrators had failed to engage in good faith since it tabled its 10.3% demand in March.

The matter was sharply raised by opposition parties, alongside many questioning Mgidlana’s behaviour in office, during the debate of Parliament’s budget vote last week. It proved embarrassing to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, also ANC national chairperson, and her National Council of Provinces (NCOP) counterpart Thandi Modise. Mbete assured the House in closing the budget debate there could be no situation in which staff were not given an increase. And Mbete added:

“Around all the allegations and grievances against the Secretary to Parliament, the matters raised, in fact, by various members of Nehawu in particular… we have been interacting with the internal audit committee since last year.”

The union received official written confirmation of this audit committee investigation last week, after it had written to Mbete and Modise calling for Mgidlana’s suspension. That Nehawu call was made public on Tuesday, with a deadline of the end of the week, after the union was angered by Mgidlana’s statement on Sunday, in which he dismissed Nehawu’s claims of mismanagement. It was all part of a campaign targeting one member of Parliament’s management team, Mgidlana’s Sunday statement said.

What has emerged since is that by that time Mgidlana had already written to the presiding officers, requesting to be put on special leave. Parliament’s statement on Friday confirmed this, saying he had written to the presiding officers on May 29, 2017.

Nehawu parliamentary branch chairperson Sthembiso Tembe said the union was “disappointed” Mgidlana was put on special leave, rather than being suspended. “We are disappointed because Mgidlana is given special treatment. If you are being investigated it has always been the tradition, and a matter of good governance, that you are being put on suspension. We don’t understand why he has been given special leave.”

Special leave means access to work spaces and documentation is still possible. There are also other concerns. The parliamentary grapevine is rife with rumours that documents are being destroyed in the office of the secretary to Parliament, although this could not be independently verified on public record.

Tembe said Nehawu would ask  that the audit committee probe should be held in public in the interest of transparency and accountability.

On Tuesday in the wake of Mgidlana’s Sunday statement, Nehawu maintained it had “irrefutable proof” of the secretary to Parliament’s mismanagement and “authoritarian behaviour”. This would be submitted to the relevant investigations.

Mgidlana being put on special leave, alongside the official probe by Parliament’s audit committee, is in line with the 2009 Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act. According to Section 67(2) of the Act “the executive authority (presiding officers) must investigate promptly any allegation of financial misconduct against the accounting officer [secretary to Parliament], unless it is obviously unfounded; and if the investigation warrants such a step, institute disciplinary proceedings promptly and in accordance with any applicable systems and procedures”.

In Parliament’s statement on Friday morning, the institution’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said: “The presiding officers wish to state that, consistent with the principles of natural justice, the secretary to Parliament remains innocent until proven otherwise”.

And all parties are urged to co-operate with the audit committee investigation, process, which it is hoped will scrutinise these allegations and put the matter to rest.

Time frames for the audit committee investigation have not been publicly released, neither has the name of the acting secretary to Parliament on Friday morning. DM

Photo: Secretary to Parliament – Mr Gengezi Mgidlana (Photo: GCIS)


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