Ayanda Dlodlo saves three suspended bigwigs

Ayanda Dlodlo, minister of public service and administration./ David Harrison
Ayanda Dlodlo, minister of public service and administration./ David Harrison

Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has allegedly overturned her predecessor Faith Muthambi's decision to suspend an executive director of one of the department's entities.

Thuli Radebe, the executive director of the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI), was due to appear before a disciplinary hearing allegedly for using the entity's funds to pay for her boyfriend's travel and accommodation in Cape Town.

Muthambi had also suspended other officials, including the chief financial officer and a chief director, on allegations that they used CPSI money to throw a 60th birthday party for Radebe.

The chief director, Lydia Phalwane, was put on suspension for allegedly abusing the company's courier service provider to send a laptop charger to her daughter in Stellenbosch. She faces five charges.

However Dlodlo, immediately after taking over the department following President Cyril Ramaphosa's first cabinet reshuffle in February, allegedly rescinded the suspensions of Radebe, the CFO Annette Snyman and Phalwane. The trio had been put on suspension by Muthambi following numerous complaints from the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers Union.

According to documents seen by Sunday World, including a notice to appear at a disciplinary hearing served on Radebe dated January 17 2018 and signed by Muthambi, Radebe was set to face six charges of gross misconduct.

However, Dlodlo withdrew the suspension, saying Muthambi had no powers to suspend Radebe and her two colleagues.

Speaking through her spokesman Mava Scott, Dlodlo said only the president was authorised to suspend the executive director while the two other officials could only be suspended by the accounting officer of an entity, not the minister.

"Upon her appointment into the portfolio, the minister conducted a review of all suspensions of employees and found that these were not effected in accordance with disciplinary prescripts, which rendered them void ab initio or unlawful as it were. She was accordingly obliged to correct these."

Dlodlo was of the view that their alleged misconduct did not warrant suspensions, Scott said, and the trio did not pose any threat to any investigation or CPSI itself. "She has subsequently undertaken a legal process to investigate the allegations /charges and will make further decisions once this process is finalised."

Among the charges, according to the letter, which Radebe acknowledged with her signature, she was accused of having instructed one of her subordinates to make travel arrangements for her boyfriend, one Josiah Aubrey Stevens, who was neither an employee nor a guest of the entity, to attend the CPSI's public sector innovation conference in Cape Town.

The letter states that Radebe abused the company's resources and personnel and did not act in the best interest of the company... causing it to incur unauthorised, fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure. She also allegedly used courier service Skynet to send medication to a friend in New York.

Snyman was suspended on allegations that she interfered with procurement processes by blocking the appointment of a supplier to provide event management services in favour of her preferred one.

CPSI acting executive director Pierre Schoonraad said "this matter is still under consideration by the minister".

"And therefore, if any hearing would continue, one would not want to jeopardise the case of any of these individuals."

Muthambi said she was confident due process was followed in the investigation and subsequent suspension of the senior executive managers. "The accusations that I did not apply my mind in interpreting the Apleni judgment and the Public Services Act 1994 are feeble and malicious. It is not customary to deal with employer and employee relations matters in public, but since I am being maligned publicly there is no option but to set the record straight. It is surprising that . the current minister has interfered in an ongoing disciplinary matter."

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