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Durban - A former eThekwini municipal official who says he was victimised for having blown the whistle about some of the city’s irregular contracts is going to court to seek reinstatement.
The Durban Labour Court is, from Monday, to hear the matter between Pragasen Govender, the former deputy head of networking, electronics and telecommunications, and the eThekwini Municipality - his former employer.
Govender says he was unfairly dismissed in June 2009 after reporting irregular payments of R2.6 million made to one of the service providers, Dimension Data, and exposing other instances of corruption in the unit he worked in.
But the city has denied this, saying Govender was dismiss-ed after a fair disciplinary hearing found him guilty of misconduct.
He had also been charged with insubordination. The charges related to allegations that Govender had been aggressive towards subordinates, had not attended some meetings, had undermined his superiors and had refused to meet Dimension Data and its staff.
In an affidavit filed as part of his application, Govender says that he was victimised by Jacqui Subban, his then-boss, with the intention of quashing attempts to recover an overpayment made to Dimension Data.
“This victimisation only began after I requested via the accountant, Basil Meintjies, that Dimension Data return the R2.6m overpaid in September 2008,” Govender states in court papers.
“The transaction took place one month before I joined the employment of the municipality and I picked up the irregularity in the second month of my employment.”
Govender says that after reporting the matter to the office of the ombudsman in eThekwini he was victimised, with many of the functions he was supposed to perform being removed from his command.
Some of these functions were then outsourced to private companies, Govender said, despite some of these companies not having the expertise necessary to execute them.
In its responding papers, the municipality denied that Govender’s dismissal had been unfair or that he had been dismissed because of whistle-blowing. It said Govender had refused to provide any information about irregularities in the municipality.
“The respondent (the municipality) has over the course of close to one year invited the applicant (Govender) to report any instances of impropriety to its senior officials or to the agencies tasked by the constitution to deal with such matters. The applicant refused and/or failed to make available the said information.”
The city says Govender used the allegation of irregularities to divert attention from his misconduct.
Also, Govender was given a fair disciplinary hearing. The city wants the labour court application to be dismissed with costs. Govender wants reinstatement and payment equal to two years’ salary. He says even the disciplinary hearing was part of his victimisation.
“I was issued with a notice of disciplinary tribunal on November 12, 2009, almost five months after reporting Subban to the ombud's offices. I was advised by certain individuals that I would be dismissed… This has become a reality.”