PanSALB & Freedom Park management / employee challenges

Sports, Arts and Culture

25 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

PanSALB appeared before the Committee and was allowed to present although the Acting CEO said that he had not been made aware of the presentation document that had been sent to the Committee already and that he would replace it with his own briefing. The board chairperson had been appointed as Acting CEO by the PanSALB board in October 2019 after the board pursued the Gobodo forensic report recommendations about senior managers linked to fraud and maladministration. Five of the six senior managers had either resigned or been dismissed with the remaining matter to be finalised the next day.

Members asked if the CEO resigned or if disciplinary action had been taken against him. They pointed out that the presentation sent by PanSALB staff had failed to account or provide information on the fraud and maladministration that had been happening in the entity. Members were not satisfied with the culture of "settling" court cases against employees which leads to a lack of disciplinary action. There was a concern about the appointment of a board member as acting CEO but it was noted that this was an interim measure.

Freedom Park reported challenges related to parking operations. They noted that maintenance of the Park facilities is challenging due to budgetary constraints. The buildings are shifting due to settlement movement and being on the hill certain cracks are beginning to show. Most of the infrastructure, especially IT, is imported, tailor-made a difficult to replace once broken. However, most of it is being replaced by local brands. There is a lack of internal capacity.

Their key achievements include moving from a R42 million to a R2 million deficit within three years due to the financial turnaround strategy; to date, more than 150 000 names have been collected and verified and 139 895 of these have been inscribed on the Wall of Names; the number of names verified, validated and approved in the Gallery of Leaders is 42; the opening of Reconciliation Road between Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument; hosted more than 50 heads of states and ambassadors; they are the host of the repatriated Radio Freedom equipment from Madagascar; the publication of the book “Freedom Park: A Place of Emancipation and Meaning; they launched the Veterans Voice Radio; declaration of the Park as a Grade 1 heritage site by SAHRA; positive media coverage for the past four years; offered study assistance to 89 staff; hosted the Netflix Bollywood film shoot for a week in 2019; they recorded 94.2% customer satisfaction.

Members asked if they had performance bonuses; how much their technology cost and if it is working and up to date; what the asset registry comprises of; if the deficit decrease was due to a reduction in employee salaries or cutting of jobs; if they conducted a skills audit; what is being done about the building's cracks; the processes in place to enhance capacity; and if due process was followed for the organisational restructure.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson stated that the Committee's role is doing oversight of the Department and its entities which receive money from government. When the Committee seeks answers, it is not undermining the entity but it so that they can all be on the same page.

PanSALB Acting CEO Dr Tebogo Maahlamela said that when PanSALB received an invitation to present there was confusion as they were not aware of what they were expected to present. Also, he was not aware of the presentation sent to the Committee prior to the meeting as it was submitted without his knowledge, hence he was going to present on a different presentation.

Mr M Seabi (ANC) expressed his dissatisfaction at PanSALB sending a presentation but then deciding to present a different one. This is a challenge as they had spent the night going through the presentation sent to them. Secondly, they did not have the new presentation for them to fully engage.

The Chairperson agreed that is a problem and asked what PanSALB came to do without a presentation. PanSALB received information about the meeting long before which would have given them time to submit their presentation to the Members.

Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) said Members had spent time reading the presentation which PanSALB is rejecting. He asked how Members are now going to engage management without a presentation and not having prepared prior to the meeting. The Department has lots of issues that have been going on for a while that need to be engaged. What the point is of sitting and nodding their heads about a document they do not have? There are much bigger challenges about language, black languages and sitting around and talking about the disorganisation of PanSALB is a waste of time.

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked if PanSALB can send them a copy. A CEO cannot say he was not aware that a presentation was sent out – this shows the type of leadership management of the entity.

Ms V Malomane (ANC) noted that the Committee had written to them prior to the meeting and hence it is not an excuse not to have copies of the presentation. She asked when PanSALB is going to send the new presentation. She asked if the reason they did not send it was they wanted to present a document that the Committee had not studied.

The Chairperson noted that they are to do oversight. She asked them what they would do themselves if the roles were reversed.

The CEO said that the time they received the invitation is when there was a sequence of activities taking place including the memorial, the KwaZulu-Natal International Mother Language Day and the burial of Doctor Joseph Shabalala. It was an active week for PanSALB and this could be the reason for not having sorted out the presentation.

Mr C Sibisi (ANC) said that is an insult to the Committee as if he is implying that Members are not also busy.

Mr Mhlongo agreed. He asked what the difference is between what they are going to present and what was sent. Being out of office is not an excuse as he has his laptop or can have someone do the follow-up when he is not available.

Mr Madlingozi said that PanSALB has their priorities mixed up as they have issues of language which need serious attention. There is no reason for a CEO to tell them that he has been busy celebrating what is already there. He then turned to the Deputy Director General to explain why the Department is like this.

Mr Seabi said that they should just allow them to present what they have. The Committee may not be able to interact with the presentation fully and as a result, they may call them again to have a full engagement.

The Chairperson asked the CEO why he is rejecting the report. As a leader he should not expose the weakness of his colleagues. The response by the CEO is offensive as the Members are just as busy. Saying PanSALB lacked clarity on what was expected of them is just an excuse as they could have contacted her office for clarity. The same applies to the presentation document – they could have immediately sent the correct presentation when he found out that a wrong one was sent. With that being said she allowed the CEO to present on what they had.

PanSALB briefing
The previous PanSALB Board Chairperson and now Acting CEO, Dr Tebogo Maahlamela, said that a Gobodo forensic investigation had taken place before the acting management took office. The board initially had an issue in accepting the forensic report. However, they eventually decided to implement it. In the report, six people were implicated which included the CEO, CFO, IT Manager, Supply Chain Manager, Finance Manager and Communication Manager. When they started to implement the Gobodo report the CFO is said to have resigned. The implementation also led to the suspension of the CEO. The CEO then later resigned. PanSALB did pay him anything except for while he was suspended. When it comes to the Finance Manager, he tried to dodge the process, but he was later dismissed as well as the IT Manager. When it comes to the Communication Manager, he also tried to dodge the process as he always had a fighting mechanism. The Communication Manager then asked them that he wanted to settle so that he can leave with a "good name" – which he did. The only case that is left will be settled on 26 February 2020.

Discussion
Mr Mhlongo asked for the date when the CEO resigned. He asked if the CEO and the others were blacklisted or had left with a good name. He noted the fraud and maladministration cases which they did not mention in the document sent to the Committee. This shows that this office is not open as evidenced by them not wanting to present this in the document which was initially sent to the Committee.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) noted that Dr Maahlamela's briefing was a mere summary. He asked if the CEO is undergoing disciplinary action. However, he said he was happy that the corruption is being dealt with.

Mr Madlingozi said that PANSALB is looking out for each other. Labour relations seem to be more important than what they are actually mandated to do.

Mr Madlingozi turned to the DAC Director General and asked if the Department has meetings with its entities beforehand to avoid the entities coming and wasting the Committee’s time. There are issues such as sign language which need to be dealt with. Instead they are spending time only talking about corruption.

Mr Seabi said that the reason they want information from PanSALB is so that they can assist it. They are doing well in dealing with corruption, that is, consequence management should be implemented as corruption can prevent them from fulfilling their mandate. There is a culture of "settling" based on the briefing which he thinks defeats the purpose and sets a wrong precedent for labour relations. They are dropping cases, for example, if a person resigns, they are not following up. This then creates a problem, and this can be interpreted as political. It is as if they did not think that the person was in the wrong.

He asked why the board appointed a board member to be the acting CEO especially the board chairperson as this sends out the wrong moral view. It has the potential of causing problems and a conflict of interest. He asked why they initially had an issue accepting the forensic report.

Responses
PanSALB Acting Board Chairperson, Ms Preetha Dabideen, replied that the board made the chairperson to be acting CEO as there was no one who was capable at that time and they decided that the chairperson could do it. However, he was not going to last more than 45 days more as they are now in the process of appointing a CEO. The interviews for the CEO position have been completed. The process was concluded on 6 February. Three people were selected and were subjected to the psychometric test. The results of the test came out yesterday. They want to ensure that the person they select gives notice on 1 March.

The Gobodo Report was not done by the board. It was compiled on the instruction of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). As a result, they had to verify and ensure that they were not implementing a report which was not fully verified.

The DAC Deputy Director General added about the Gobodo investigation report that the PanSALB board just wanted to verify and after they verified, they acted on it.

The Arts and Culture  Director General, Mr Vusumusi Mkhize, replied that the Department did not meet with the entities before they come to Parliament to avoid micromanaging. However they do get the reports and engage them before they are sent, but they do not try to sanitise them or tell them what to write.

Mr Mkhize replied that entities should refrain from appointing the board chairperson as the CEO and it is not what the Department recommends. With the White Paper, they will be able to clarify and manage the situation. He added that the board is fast-tracking the appointment of the CEO. The CFO was just newly appointed. The Department has an entities unit that does monitoring and ensures alignment between the Department and entities. They hope that once the executive positions are filled, PanSALB will move in a better direction.

Further discussion
Mr Mhlongo asked how much they used of the Gobodo Report recommendations and he also wanted to know about the new board.

Mr Seabi noted that the Committee should call in the PanSALB board again to present on what they are doing in terms of its mandate.

On the questions posed by Mr Mhlongo, a PanSALB representative replied that they would send a presentation with all the answers.

Mr Mhlongo asked why is PanSALB presenting without giving answers. His questions do not need a presentation and an agenda. This shows that they are hiding things.

The PanSALB Acting Board Chairperson pointed out that the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture is the one that paid for the Gobodo Report and not PanSALB. On why PanSALB had settled, she explained that it does not mean the board is saying the allegations are not important to pursue, but it was going cost them money. The board did a cost-benefit analysis and settling was the only way to avoid large financial costs as this case was going to go first to the CCMA, then Labour Court and finally the Constitutional Court.

Mr Madlingozi asked how much they had spent on legal outsourcing. How much had they spent on a golden handshake and did the CEO get a pension?

The Acting CEO, Dr Tebogo Maahlamela, replied that for the legal proceedings from the Gobodo Report, the costs are less than a million. They got legal advice to avoid having attorneys sit in many of the meetings as this is costing them. There was no cost spent on a golden handshake.

Freedom Park presentation
Freedom Park Council Chairperson, Mr Ronny Makopo, started by presenting the institutional arrangements. The Council consists of eight members of which three are women. The Council committees include: Core business, Audit and Risk, Finance and Fundraising and HR and Remuneration. They have a staff complement of 91. Currently, the organisation comprise of the following departments: Office of the CEO, Heritage and Knowledge department, Public Participation, Park Operations, Human Resources, Finance and Corporate Governance.

To optimise delivery, Freedom Park embarked on a process to realign the organisational structure. It also embarked on a turnaround strategy which included terminating many contracts and cancelling some of the benefits such as study assistance and performance bonuses. Some of these changes and proposals led to unhappiness amongst staff.

The reason for realignment is because the current organisational structure is bloated, irrational, inefficient and costly (64%). Serious mistakes were made during expansion and redeployment in preparation for planned operationalisation in 2009. Posts with one job description created on different levels of the organogram have become a source of much confusion and resentment. The span of control is problematic in many cases as it is too wide. Line functions are not clearly defined, for example, outreach, tour guide, front line and ticketing. Some posts such as archiving and resource centre not based on structural requirements but on ill-conceived redeployment. Therefore we need to streamline and coordinate to create coherence, effectiveness and efficiency.

The Council investigation was sparked by the Union Task Team letter addressed to Council on 06 June 2019 requesting a meeting with Council to address mismanagement of Freedom Park. The union (NEHAWU) was not active at the time. Council met with the task team on 21 June 2019. The Union Task Team raised areas of concern and the Council requested that they also submit a formal submission, which was addressed to the Council. Concerns raised by the Union Task Team were around human resources, state of the organisation, financial management, and cross-cutting issues. The Council delegated the investigation to the Chairperson's committee. The investigation was finalised on 17 August 2019. Council met with NEHAWU on the 30 August 2019 to provide the outcome of the investigation. NEHAWU was not satisfied with the outcome. Council resolved to appoint an independent service provider through the supply chain process to conduct the investigation on behalf of the Council. NEHAWU resolved not to participate in the investigation despite several correspondences by Council urging the union to participate. The Final Investigation Report will be shared with the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture and all employees of Freedom Park.

The challenges they are facing with the investigation are that NEHAWU resolved not to participate and refused to be interviewed by lawyers which has resulted in some allegations not being investigated due to lack of information or evidence. Some of the staff members implicated are also union members and some of the affected staff members needed more clarification or evidence from the union.

A total of 58 allegations were made by the union. The preliminary investigation by Council found that there were no adverse findings. They found that some of the allegations were due to a lack of understanding of policy and processes. Some of the claims were also not substantiated, they were false and it seems that the union is used to fight personal battles.

The preliminary findings are that the realignment process seems to be the main cause of the conflict with management. International trips are not understood by employees and it seems the main issue is the subsistence allowances and not transgressing policy. The SAPS case (R500 000 payment) has been outstanding for too long - it should be escalated to another law enforcement agency. The relationship between the management and the union has broken down. Individual performance should be recognised through a Service Awards Policy since the payment bonuses have been abolished.

Challenges related to operations is that maintenance of the Park facilities is challenging due to budgetary constraints. The buildings are shifting due to settlement movement and being on the hill certain cracks are beginning to show. Most of the infrastructure, especially IT, is imported, tailor-made and difficult to replace once broken. However, most of it is being replaced by local brands. There is a lack of internal capacity.

Their key achievements include moving from a R42 million to a R2 million deficit within three years due to the financial turnaround strategy; to date, more than 150 000 names have been collected and verified and 139 895 of these have been inscribed on the Wall of Names; the number of names verified, validated and approved in the Gallery of Leaders is 42; the opening of Reconciliation Road between Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument; hosted more than 50 heads of states and ambassadors; they are the host of the repatriated Radio Freedom equipment from Madagascar; the publication of the book “Freedom Park: A Place of Emancipation and Meaning; they launched the Veterans Voice Radio; declaration of the Park as a Grade 1 heritage site by SAHRA; positive media coverage for the past four years; offered 89 instances of study assistance to staff; hosted the Netflix Bollywood film shoot for a week in 2019; they recorded 94.2% customer satisfaction.

Discussion
Mr Mhlongo asked if they have an asset register policy and, if so, does the staff also have it. He asked if they have a study policy. He asked about the composition of the Council committees.

He referred to union concern raised about the unannounced visit done by Committee Member, Ms Van Dyk at Freedom Park. Any Member of Parliament is allowed at any institution. Ms Van Dyk went there as a visitor and not as an MP. He asked why the security officer was suspended and what the charges are against him.

He asked if they have any performance bonus and also how it works when it comes to the CEO.

He asked if they have any policy on overseas trips.

Additionally, the role of the CEO is to bring money into an institution. He asked how much the CEO has raised since 2017. How much has she spent on travelling?

He requested a copy of the Council committee investigation report finalised on 17 August 2019.

He noted the presentation states that it is policy for visiting Members of Parliament to sign the register. He asked them to explain if they have records of Members signing in at Freedom Park.

He asked how many lights outside the building are working.

On the technology system, he asked how much it cost them, and if it is working and up to date.

He asked if the asset register comprises all assets and made reference to R10 million worth of assets. He asked why they say that the assets register is updated and yet it has not been verified. If the register has not yet been verified, it cannot be said to be up to date 

He asked if they had conducted a skills audit.

He asked how they managed to reduce the deficit and if it was at the expense of the salaries of junior employees.

Mr Madlingozi remarked that the Council chairperson was talking about the employees' concerns in a disgruntled manner which was not acceptable.

He noted that Freedom Park paid for a law firm and wanted to know how much was paid.

Ms Malomane also noted that the Freedom Park Council chairperson keeps talking about disgruntled, toxic people. She asked why he uses that kind of language. Noted that this shows that they have seen signs in those people that make them toxic and disgruntled. She asked what they did to address those signs.

She asked if the Union Task Team has been dissolved and, if so, why. She asked if the Union Task Team is different from unions and asked about its composition.

She asked if the full process was followed for Organisational Restructure.

She asked what they are doing about the shifting buildings that are showing cracks and if it is life-threatening.

She noted that they had said that they are lacking capacity and asked what they are doing to address this.

Mr Seabi congratulated them on empowering women. He asked when they are doing organisational design if they consult the staff as per the requirement of the legislation.

On the Union Task Team, he asked if it was recognised that it started representing workers.

He asked what the investigation was about that will produce a report.

He asked about the outcome of the disciplinary action as well as for clarity on the sanctions.

He is worried about the language being used for example “flush employees”. It seems as if the Council chairperson has already taken a decision on these employees without subjecting them to due process.

He asked if it is impossible to get a clean audit; how much the stipend is that the Council members receive and when the contract of the CEO is coming to an end.

The Committee Chairperson noted that a site visit is necessary so that the new Committee members are well informed about what is happening on site. She also reprimanded the Council chairperson on his use of language.

Responses
The Freedom Park Council Chairperson replied that the Council members are merely volunteering. By being present in Parliament they are actually losing. They receive about R1 700 per sitting.

They do have a study policy. No one is receiving a bonus due to the financial constraints they are facing.  The CEO contract is a five-year contract which is coming to an end in January 2021.

He apologised for the language he used and noted that this did not mean that they were not going to follow due process. Once people are identified, they are treated objectively.

He explained that they got an external independent entity to investigate and that will be the final report.

Policy development is accessible to the staff. They have around 90 to 100 staff which makes it easier for them to engage them on the policy development.

They do have a travel policy and it is consistent with Treasury. He added that they have 172 policies and they take pride in that. These policies are easily accessible on the intranet.

They do have a form which indicates the assets which were allocated. On the asset register, he replied that if it were not in order then they would have obtained a qualified audit.

There are five Council committees which consist of three council members each chaired by one person.

On the reduction of employee-related costs, they need to offer a voluntary employee severance package.

The skills audit is part of the organisational restructuring package.

He explained that the deficit reduction did not result from cutting the employee salaries but it was a result of the turnaround financial restructure. They stopped issuing bonuses and also limited study bursaries. They stopped doing inflationary increments. Additionally, they started to in-source more rather outsource.

On Ms Van Dyk's visit to Freedom Park, they have a visitors’ register which is audited. Her name was not registered on that and she was introduced as a friend and ex-colleague. At Freedom Park, it is either a complimentary or paid visit. With a paid visit they are allocated a tour guide. Ms Van Dyk was allocated a tour guide who she released from that duty. However, they did not have a problem with Members of Parliament coming but it should be done in a proper way.

The Chairperson requested that due to time constraints, they should send responses to the questions which were not answered in writing.  The meeting was adjourned.

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