How a KZN government employee 'squandered' R1.6m on a witch-hunt for a whistleblower who outed him
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Durban - A senior manager at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education stands accused of spending more than R1million of taxpayers’ money on a witch-hunt to find the whistle-blowers who had made damning allegations of corruption against him.
The manager, who is based at the department’s Pinetown offices, allegedly spent R1.6m for a forensic company to conduct the investigation in November 2018.
He and another senior manager are at the centre of a 100-page dossier levelling various allegations of corruption against them. The dossier was compiled by staff members.
The Mercury has seen correspondence sent to the department’s management in which it is alleged that the department had failed to act despite proof of allegations of corruption.
The money spent on hiring a forensic company has been viewed as “illegal”, a source in the department said.
“It now forms part of a broader complaint of corruption which dates back to early 2018,” said the source.
The source claimed that Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, previous MECs and the head of department, Dr Enock Nzama, had been made aware of the spending.
Several letters detailing the allegations of corruption against these officials were sent to them, claimed the source.
To date, the source said, no action had been taken.
“Instead, the whistle-blower letter sent to the head office found its way back to the managers at the centre of the allegations. They merely responded by launching an investigation.
“They hired a forensic company that seized all the computer hard drives of the finance staff so they could check which computer had authored the document. There had been rumours about the allegations of wrongdoing
by these managers. A hard copy document detailing the alleged acts of corruption was distributed anonymously to staff.
“No one knows where the document originated as it was deposited to individual workers via different mailboxes,” claimed the source.
It has been alleged the forensic company hired to conduct the “investigation”, seized all the computer hard drives from the finance unit. They suspected that the person who wrote the document worked in that department, said the source.
“The duration of this investigation of the hard drives took four working days. This resulted in essential services being hampered just to achieve a personal vendetta and which cost the state R1.6m.
“The investigation was futile as it achieved no positive results,” said the source.
The source claimed that when the hard drives were returned, they were damaged.
“The staff were also threatened with a polygraph test to find out who had written the document.
“The workers for the past two years have been working under duress and in an uncomfortable environment. They are actually fearful of the management, and implement instructions that are given, even if those instructions are out of fear,” claimed the source.
Nzama dismissed the allegations that he had not acted. He said he was aware of complaints brought by the unions against one official in Pinetown.
But he said he had not received any letters of complaint alleging corruption, nor had the department appointed a forensic company to investigate the whistle-blowers.
“This is the first time I am hearing of this. The only corruption issues
were at the department’s Truro house offices and we dealt with that and fired all those involved. There has been nothing from the Pinetown office,” Nzama said.
Meanwhile, four senior managers from the department’s head office have been placed on suspension following allegations of misconduct.
This was revealed in an internal memo yesterday.
Attempts to reach the managers who were suspended were unsuccessful.
Two weeks ago, The Mercury reported that at least two senior managers were on the verge of being suspended for alleged wrongdoing.
It is not clear why these officials have been suspended, but it is believed that it could be linked to the sanitary pad investigation.
Department of Education spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa confirmed the suspensions. Asked whether the suspensions were linked to the investigation into the sanitary pads, Mlotshwa said he was not privy to such details and would not speculate or comment on that.
In a statement, the department said it had decided to place the senior managers on precautionary suspension as the allegations of misconduct were serious and they believed the presence of the four at work would jeopardise the investigation.
“It is important to note that the precautionary suspension of the four managers does not constitute a judgment against them but affords us an opportunity to properly investigate the allegations,” it said.
A source in the department said the suspended officials “were being thrown under the bus” over the tender to provide sanitary pads to schools, which resulted in an over-supply and increase in costs.
“This is nothing more than a dirty tricks campaign to cover up how R100m was spent instead of R20m for the sanitary towels,” said the source.