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Attempts to settle a labour court dispute brought by the former deputy head of IT at the eThekwini Municipality, Pragasen Govender, who claims he was fired after he exposed corruption in the city, fell through on Monday after he rejected an offer from the city.
Govender, former municipal deputy head for networks and telecommunications, who was fired in March 2010, says that trumped-up misconduct charges were used to dismiss him from his job after he reported irregularities and corruption in the Geographic Information and Policy Office, which was run by Jacqui Subban in 2008 and 2009.
He has asked the court to order his reinstatement and award him compensation.
Among the irregularities, some of which were dealt with in the Manase Report on fraud and corruption in the municipality, was a duplicate payment of R2.6 million to Dimension Data and irregular payments to H20 Networks.
The firm was paid R2.6m on September 2, 2008, and eight days later another payment for the same amount was made.
The trial was about to resume in the Durban Labour Court on Monday, but was delayed when the parties tried to settle the matter.
It is understood that an offer of R1m by the municipality and legal costs for the trial was rejected by Govender.
When the trial got under way, Gary Borchardt, Dimension Data’s financial manager, testified that he had been unaware of any collusion between the company’s director Jay Reddy and Subban.
Borchardt said the duplicate payment had come about after the company switched from a quarterly billing system to a monthly billing system at the municipality’s request.
He said that when the duplicate payment had been discovered a few months later, the amount had been offset against future invoices that the municipality would have had to pay.
If the company had been unable to offset the amount, it would have been refunded to the municipality.
He added that any suggestion that the company had colluded with Subban for her to somehow personally recoup the money was “without merit”.
Under cross-examination, Borchardt said he could not dispute that the original and duplicate payments had been signed off by Subban.
Roslyn Sookdeo, a forensic auditor from the municipal ombudsman’s office, testified on Monday that she had investigated a case dealing with a complaint made by Govender in July 2009.
Last year, Govender testified that he had been fired after he reported irregularities to former municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe. He said that Sutcliffe had seemed to be uninterested in his disclosures.
Sutcliffe told The Mercury last year that the allegations were “blatant lies”.
Subban, who is no longer the head of the city’s IT department, has been charged with misconduct related to the overpayment to Dimension Data and the irregular awarding of contracts to H20 Networks. However, the city is yet to hold her disciplinary hearing.
The trial continues on Tuesday. - The Mercury