Mkhwebane finds Mbalula irregularly hired, paid advisors

Mkhwebane finds Mbalula irregularly hired, paid advisors

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg – The Public Protector has found that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula irregularly appointed and paid his three advisors millions of rand without the approval of his Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found that the appointments of special advisors Lawrence Venkile and Bongisizwe Mpondo as well as legal advisor Kaiser Khoza were done contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Act and other prescripts applicable to the department in 2019.

Mkhwebane’s investigation also uncovered that Venkile and Khoza were irregularly paid salaries equivalent to those of deputy directors-general even though their appointments were not yet approved by Mchunu.

The report is among the 16 released by Mkhwebane on Wednesday, covering public procurement, recruitment and selection of staff, management of ratepayers’ funds by a number of municipalities and whistle-blowers' plight.

According to the public protector, Venkile and Khoza were appointed at annual salaries ranging between R1.45 million and R1.71m.

“Their offers in respect of contracts of appointment are dated 1 June 2019 and 21 March 2019 and Mchunu approved them later on 27 August 2019 and 11 November 2020, respectively,” Mkhwebane said.

She added that Venkile had undertaken to pay back the money determined as a salary overpayment.

Mbalula and transport director-general Alec Moemi undertook to recovery all overpayments that have been effected on Khoza’s salary.

Mkhwebane also slammed Mbalula’s secondment of Mpondo to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) as administrator in December 2019.

Her investigation found that Mpondo’s secondment to Prasa was done contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Act.

In August last year, Western Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus declared Mbalula’s appointment of Mpondo unlawful and reviewed and set it aside.

However, Mkhwebane found no irregularities in the appointment of Thandiwe Mpondo as the director responsible for parliamentary and cabinet support in Mbalula’s office.

Mbalula has been ordered by Mkhwebane to urgently and appropriately take steps to ensure that when appointing future special advisor, he submits recommendations to the DPSA minister for approval of the individual’s compensation level before the appointment/upgrade is effected.

Future contracts of employment, performance agreements and security clearances of special advisors must also be submitted to the DPSA head for recording purposes, as required by the Dispensation Policy.

Moemi must also take steps to ensure that all the overpayments, salaries and emoluments that were paid to Venkile and Khoza by the department before his position as Mbalula’s special and legal advisors, respectively, before Mchunu’s approval are recovered in full as per the agreement concluded with him (Venkile).

Mbalula has been ordered to also ensure that all ministers and their deputies are aware and trained in the procedures and processes to be followed in the appointment of special advisors.

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