‘I’m staying at home at taxpayers’ expense’

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IOL  NT PUBLIC PROTECTOR INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Advocate Mlandeli Nkosi, the head of the KZN office of the public protector, has been on special leave for the past six months. Picture: SIYANDA MAYEZA

Durban - Advocate Mlandeli Nkosi has been sitting at home for almost six months, pocketing taxpayers’ money, while he could be productive at work. “But it’s not by choice,” says Nkosi.

The KZN head of the office of the public protector was put on special leave indefinitely in October, allegedly without being formally charged or given any explanation.

A letter sent to Nkosi alleges that he may have a drinking problem, a claim he denies.

The frustrated advocate, who was part of the team that established the KZN branch office in 2001, believes there is a plot to oust him from his position and he wants to know why he was put on special leave.

The national office of the public protector confirmed that Nkosi had been placed on special leave, but refused to divulge the reasons.

Spokeswoman for the public protector Kgalalelo Masibi said: “This is a confidential employer-employee process that involves a wellness issue, so we cannot comment further.”

Recounting what happened, Nkosi said that at the end of October he received a letter from the regional chief executive, Themba Mthethwa.

The letter, which the Sunday Tribune has seen, dated October 31, 2013, states that Nkosi was being referred to a “an employee wellness programme, which is managed by ICAS, for assistance with alleged alcohol or substance abuse which has a negative effect on operations of the Durban office and the public protector of South Africa as a whole”.

It also states that he had been put on special leave from November 1 last year until further notice.

Nkosi said he agreed to attend the wellness programme, but strongly denied having any alcohol or substance abuse problems.

“I assured him that I would go to the sessions for the purpose of gaining skills that could be implemented at work,” Nkosi said. He was subsequently put on special leave.

“I attended the wellness programme – it was four sessions from mid-November until December,” said Nkosi.

The advocate said that on December 20 last year, before the office closed for the festive break, there was a meeting between him, a senior HR manager and the chief executive.

“During the meeting I was informed that they had received an interim report from the service provider and that it was favourable to me. They also informed me that they would wait for the final report.”

Nkosi said the outcome of the reports were never made available to him.

In January, through his lawyers, Nkosi wrote a letter to his boss, Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela, informing her what had transpired and asking if she could intervene and investigate the matter.

“Our client’s most worrying concern is the use of taxpayers’ money to continue paying his salary whilst sitting at home, when he could be a productive member of staff,” reads the letter to Madonsela.

In the letter, he states that these circumstances are a violation of his right to fair labour practice as envisaged in the labour legislation.

The former provincial head in Mpumalanga, Sibekuza Dube, is currently acting in Nkosi’s position.

Before Nkosi being placed on special leave a probe was conducted by O.M.A Chartered Accountants into allegations of misuse of pool vehicles and petty cash in the KZN office.

The investigation found that there was indeed misuse of company vehicles and petty cash. Nkosi said hearings were held and people were disciplined.

“Some time in March this year the chief executive wrote a letter to me and requested to know why I shouldn’t also be charged, because I was the head and that this happened under my watch.”

Nkosi responded, stating reasons why he believed he shouldn’t be charged.

On March 20, the chief executive wrote a letter to Nkosi informing him that he was not “persuaded by your motivation not to pursue the intended disciplinary action”.

The letter states that the office of the public protector was in the process of appointing an investigating officer to further probe allegations against Nkosi.

Nkosi said his boss did not specify why he wanted to charge him.

“At the beginning of this month I received a call from the deputy public protector, advocate Kevin Malunga, who asked me what was going on and why I was still not at work. I informed him that the CEO had not asked me to report back to work,” said Nkosi.

“I have been sitting at home earning taxpayers’ money and I am frustrated. If they wanted to charge me they should have done so, so that the matter can be dealt with.”

On Monday this week Nkosi approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to lodge a complaint.

“What they are doing is tantamount to unfair labour practice,” said Nkosi. He said he was told that Madonsela wrote a letter saying that he should return to work, but he had not heard anything from the chief executive pertaining to such a letter. “I don’t have a problem with Thuli or the CEO, I just want to go back to work. I started this office single-handedly and it’s where it is today because of all my hard work,” he said.

Nkosi said he thought there was a plot to oust him from his position. “I believe they want to make the current acting head the head of the KZN office.” He said the office of the public protector intended to have a head of the region in every capital city and that was where the current head was being promised he would move. “It would automatically make him the head for KZN,” said Nkosi.

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