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A former eThekwini municipality official says he was fired after he told city manager Michael Sutcliffe about illegal and irregular activities in the city’s IT department.
Former deputy head for networks and telecommunications Pragasen Govender, who was testifying in his Labour Court case on Tuesday, said he had secretly recorded the meetings with Sutcliffe to protect himself.
Govender, who was fired in March 2010, claims that trumped-up misconduct charges were used to dismiss him from his job after he reported irregularities and corruption occurring within the Geographic Information and Policy Office (Gipo), which was headed by Jacqui Subban in 2008 and 2009.
He has asked the court to order his reinstatement and compensation equivalent to two years’ salary.
He testified on Tuesday that Sutcliffe seemed disinterested in his disclosures during their first meeting in December 2009. “He sat there and he had a piece of paper before him and a blue pen. He started drawing leaves and trees on the page.”
Govender said Sutcliffe told him that he would get back to him, but he did not.
Judge Hamilton Cele ruled that he would allow transcripts of the recorded conversations Govender had with Sutcliffe to be used as evidence, provided that the authenticity of the documents were proven. The municipality’s advocate, Joe Nxusani, had argued that the recordings had been “unconstitutionally obtained” because Sutcliffe had not been aware of them.
Govender has testified that the irregularities he reported included a duplicate payment of R2.6 million made to Dimension Data, outside contractors being allowed to control supply chain management processes within his department, and irregular use of Section 36 (non-tender) contracts.
He said Fawzia Peer, the then-chief whip of the council, helped him to arrange a second meeting with Sutcliffe in December 2009. At the second meeting, Sutcliffe handed him a letter of intention to suspend him in connection with misconduct charges.
He said that the letter also compelled him to provide documentary evidence of the corruption in five days or risk being suspended. Govender said he had decided to meet Sutcliffe as a last resort after he was told he was being charged with misconduct.
“The charges were a complete fabrication. The charge sheet said I was aggressive and insolent… the charges emanated from the same people that I had reported to the ombud’s office a few months before.” He said he became an “outcast” at work after he’d laid the complaint at the ombud’s office.
“I was excluded from meetings. People did not want to speak to me.”
Transcripts of the recordings were to be made available to the court on Wednesday.