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Durban - It was a day of high drama in the Labour Court hearing of a former eThekwini municipal official on Wednesday when city manager S’bu Sithole was ordered to attend court by the judge after he had apparently ignored a subpoena.
Judge Hamilton Cele instructed his secretary to contact Sithole after he failed to present himself after a subpoena had been served.
Sithole had been called to testify in the hearing of the former deputy head of networks and telecommunications, Pragasen Govender.
Govender, who was fired in 2010, claims false misconduct charges were used to dismiss him after he reported irregularities and corruption in the IT department of the municipal geographic information and policy office (Gipo), which was headed by Jacqui Subban in 2008 and 2009. He reported this to then city manager Michael Sutcliffe and the city’s ombudsman’s office.
Govender wants reinstatement and compensation equivalent to two years’ salary. Among the irregularities, some of which were dealt with in the Manase Report, was a duplicate payment of R2.6 million to Dimension Data and irregular payments to H20 Networks.
On Wednesday, Govender’s advocate, Piet Haasbroek, said Sithole and the city’s human resources head, Dave Cloete, had been subpoenaed and asked to provide a charge sheet related to the disciplinary charges against Subban.
“They are not here. We have received a letter from the legal services department which states that the charge sheet we want is with the advocate handling the prosecution of the disciplinary hearing.”
Disciplinary action was taken against Subban last June, based on allegations in the Manase Report.
Judge Cele then ordered Cloete’s and Sithole’s attendance, but only Sithole arrived and the court was told that Cloete was in hospital.
Sithole did not testify after it was agreed that his testimony was not necessary if the municipality could provide the charge sheet.
According to the charge sheet, which was later presented to the court, Subban has been charged with “serious misconduct” for contravening supply chain management policies by allowing the duplicate payment to Dimension Data.
The firm was paid R2.6m on September 2, 2008, and eight days later another payment for the same amount was made. Subban failed to “act promptly” to recover the over-payment once the error was brought to her attention.
She has also been accused of irregularly awarding two contracts, which were worth more than R27m, to H20 Networks.
Subban had awarded the work to the company without following a tender process or consulting the city’s legal department.
She also has been accused of allowing the company to draw up the contracts and paying it R15m up front without any work being done.
The court heard that Subban would be called by the municipality to testify at the hearing.
Meroshnee Craig, who worked as an administrator in the geographic information and policy office, testified that she had noticed irregularities and incorrect procedures carried out by consultant Colin Benjamin, who was hired by Subban as a project manager.
Earlier, Govender testified that Benjamin was given “carte blanche” to buy fibre-optic cables, worth several million rand, on behalf of the city, allegedly in breach of supply chain management policies.
Craig said she reported her concerns to administration manager Lindiwe Shange and others, but no action was taken.
Under cross-examination Craig admitted that she had a strained relationship with Subban, who had been her boss, and had previously referred an unfair labour dispute for arbitration.
The hearing continues.