Summary Dismissal of Secretary to Parliament; PSC Inquiry report on death of Mr L Garane (closed)

Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament

11 September 2019
Chairperson: Mabe, Ms B (ANC) & Mahlangu, Ms D (ANC)(Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament began its meeting behind closed doors as it discussed the report on the suicide of a staff member working in Parliament. After an hour, the doors were opened for members of the public and the media.

The Chairperson informed the public and the media that during the closed session the Committee had agreed to allow the Executive Authority an opportunity to first present the findings of the Public Service Commission’s enquiry into the tragic death of a parliamentary staff member to the family. That had to be done within seven days and then after that a meeting would be scheduled, and it would be open to the public.

The Committee was informed that the Secretary of Parliament had been charged on 13 charges but one charge had been withdrawn due to lack of evidence. On five charges he had been found not guilty because the policy on those charges was found not to be very clear. He was found guilty on seven charges. On four of those charges, he was found guilty of serious misconduct with a sanction that was summary dismissal while the other two charges resulted in final warnings. The Secretary would be informed that the recommendations of the disciplinary committee would be accepted. The matter would be put to the two Houses for finalisation. 

An advertisement was being prepared for the vacancy in the Parliamentary Budget Office. The Committee would be given further information in the next meeting.

Members asked when the contract of the Secretary ended and what the consequences would be? Would there be any recuperation of the salary paid to the Secretary while he had been on suspension for the past two years? Had the Executive Authority considered whether there were any appeal mechanisms available to the former Secretary before Members in the Houses considered the resolution? What had it cost Parliament?

Meeting report

The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament began its meeting behind closed doors as it discussed the report on the suicide of a staff member working in Parliament. After an hour, the doors were opened for members of the public and the media.

Discussion on the disciplinary proceedings against the Secretary to Parliament, Mr Gengezi Mgidlana
Ms T Modise (ANC), Speaker of the National Assembly, briefed the Committee on the proceedings against the Secretary to Parliament, Mr Gengezi Mgidlana. She admitted that the proceedings had taken a long time but it was finally over. The Secretary had been charged on 13 charges but one charge had been withdrawn due to lack of evidence. On five charges he had been found not guilty because the policy on those charges was found to be unclear. He was found guilty on seven charges. On four of those charges, he was found guilty of serious misconduct with a sanction that was summary dismissal while the sanctions on the other two charges were final warnings.

The Executive Authority had conferred and would be sending correspondence to the Secretary that they were going to accept the recommendations of the disciplinary committee and would be putting in a process for the two Houses to deal with a motion on the matter because the two Houses had appointed the Secretary to Parliament. 

Vacancy in the Parliamentary Budget Office
Ms Modise stated that the Executive Authority had asked for advertisements and they were being prepared for the Vacancy in the Parliamentary Budget Office. As soon as the Executive Authority was ready, it would be coming back to the Committee to tell Members about it.

Co-Chairperson Mabe requested the Speaker to repeat the recommendations for the record.

Resolutions: 1. The Executive Authority was writing to the Secretary of Parliament to say that it was accepting the recommendations of the disciplinary committee. 2. A process was being put into motion for the two Houses to process the recommendations of the disciplinary committee.

Discussion

Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) asked when the contract of the Secretary ended and what the consequences would be? Would there be any recuperation of the salary paid to the Secretary while he had been on suspension for the past two years?

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked if the Executive Authority (EA) had considered whether there were any appeal mechanisms available to the former Secretary before both Houses considered the resolution.

Ms Modise replied that the EA had considered that. Four of the seven charges found that the Secretary could be summarily dismissed. The EA had taken an opinion on the disciplinary committee’s decisions but the EA did not appoint the Secretary, otherwise the EA would have made that decision. It was up to the House to give the EA permission to finalise the matter.

Ms Modise informed Mr Steenhuisen that the Secretary to Parliament’s contract ended at the end of November as he had started in December. She did not think that there would be too much of a demand for compensation after a finding of summary dismissal on numerous accounts. Every South African had the right, once the matter had been processed by the House, to go to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Secretary could take the matter wherever he wanted to take it. That was a channel open to him but it would be difficult for him to do anything until the Houses had taken a decision on the matter.

Co-Chair Mabe reminded Members that the NCOP had started the afternoon session and when the NCOP Members withdrew, the meeting would no longer be quorate. She would give every Member half a second, starting with Mr Steenhuisen who could say one sentence.

Mr Steenhuisen remarked that it was very difficult for him to say only one sentence. He asked the Speaker if the obvious thing would not be just not to renew the contract because then there could be no appeal. If the Speaker was saying that there were no financial consequences for him, no repaying of benefits, surely the cheapest, cleanest way would be not renewing the contract, rather than giving him the avenue of appeal? Had that been considered?

Ms D Dlakude (ANC) thanked the presiding officers for their report. The ANC really appreciated it. The matter was long overdue but due processes had to be followed. Her understanding was that when a contract came to an end, that was the end of the contract. Renewing was another matter.
Mr A Nyambi (ANC; Mpumalanga) suggested that the two Houses had to deal with the detail of determining how they would conclude; whether it was a correction to what would be presented by the Executive Authority and they followed the line of Mr Steenhuisen or whether it was a dismissal, that process should go to the two Houses as it was within their jurisdiction to conclude that process.

Mr A Shaik Emam (NFP) asked what the cost implications were in light of the fact that it been delayed for such a long period of time. What had it cost Parliament?
Ms Modise replied that she did not have the figures but would present them to the Committee. She thought that Mr Steenhuisen was luring her into saying that the EA had spent time and wasted their money putting the man through the disciplinary process and then they wanted him to stay two months. She thought that someone who had been found to merit a summary dismissal, was not someone that one would allow to stay longer. The EA would have to pretend that the person had not gone through the process and that they had paid for nothing. But, also, if she allowed that, it created a situation where someone walked out, even if the contract was not renewed, and would be employable somewhere else without a record that that occurrence had taken place.

Closing remarks
Co-Chair Mabe stated that, for the benefit of the media whom she did not want to ask her questions when she left the room, she would report on what had been agreed upon during the closed session. It had taken an hour to get to an agreement that the Committee allow the Executive Authority an opportunity to first present the findings of the Public Service Commission’s enquiry into the tragic death of Mr L Garane in September 2018 to the family. That had to be done within seven days and after that a meeting would be scheduled, and it would be open to the public.
The meeting was adjourned.

 

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