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An eThekwini Municipality ombudsman’s office forensic auditor said a former city IT head, who claimed he had been fired after exposing alleged irregularities, had made a complaint to the ombudsman’s office in the same month he had been charged with misconduct.
Pragasen Govender, former municipal deputy head for networks and telecommunications, testified in his Labour Court trial that he was unfairly dismissed after he had made disclosures about irregularities - including a R2.6 million duplicate payment to Dimension Data and contracts awarded to H20 Networks.
Govender, who was fired in 2010, wants to be reinstated and paid compensation.
The city denied that Govender was pushed out because he was a whistle-blower. It said the disciplinary charges against him were genuine.
Auditor Roslyn Sookdeo said on Tuesday she first met Govender when she was investigating an anonymous complaint that had been laid with her office in July 2009.
The complainant alleged that R100m worth of contracts had been awarded to Dimension Data under dubious circumstances.
Sookdeo said that as part of her investigation, she set up a meeting with Govender for him to explain how the IT department was run.
She had a “general discussion” with Govender, but she did not take a statement from him.
Sookdeo testified that she sent Govender questions regarding her investigation after the meeting and he replied to them, but did not mention the duplicate payment to Dimension Data or contracts awarded to H20 Networks.
“He did not say that he wanted to make a complaint or that he made the anonymous complaint. He was just providing information as a deputy head.”
Her next contact with Govender was when he sent her e-mails in November 2009 about wanting to make a formal complaint about signing powers in his department given to an independent consultant, Colin Benjamin.
She conceded under cross-examination that she could have forgotten some of the details that Govender had told her in their first meeting.
Govender’s advocate, Piet Haasbroek, said Govender said he made the initial complaint in July 2009, but it was recorded as “anonymous” as Sookdeo had advised him that he could lose his job.
Sookdeo replied that the complaint had been registered as anonymous by another investigator and denied she had told Govender he could lose his job.
She also could not find the investigation files for the July 2009 complaint.
“I did find it strange that I could not find it.”
Sookdeo had located “a file” which had the register number for the November 2009 complaint, but its contents related to a “completely different case”.
She said it appeared there had been “no investigation” of the November complaint.
The trial continues.
- In Tuesday’s article titled “IT man rejects city offer to settle case”, The Mercury published details of an alleged settlement offer made to Pragasen Govender. The parties have directed that any offer of settlement was made strictly without prejudice, and ought to have remained confidential.
The municipality’s attorney has also pointed out that witness Roslyn Sookdeo testified that she had investigated an “anonymous” complaint, not one made by Govender as was reported.
The error is regretted. - The Mercury