Metro police recruits graduate at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville in December 2015. File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA
Pretoria - The hunt for the capital’s chief of police has been thrown into a tailspin after it emerged that one of the five shortlisted candidates was on suspension for alleged misconduct.

Ugeshni Naidoo, an employee at the City of Ekurhuleni, was suspended for allegedly issuing a fraudulent traffic diploma to head of the crime prevention unit at the Tshwane Metro Police Department, Johanna Estresia “Trish” Armstrong, in 2006.

Naidoo allegedly issued a diploma under a badge of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department Training Academy when it was not yet accredited by the Road Traffic Management Corporation. She was a director of the training academy at the time.

Armstrong was meanwhile suspended in June on two charges of policy violation related to allegations that she misrepresented her qualifications.

In 2014, she was implicated in a forensic report issued by the Tshwane Group Audit and Risk Department for having signed off a traffic diploma certificate from a training academy accredited a year after the diploma was issued.

Naidoo’s name was included among five candidates shortlisted for the position of chief of police, left vacant by Steven Ngobeni a few months ago, when he fell out of favour with mayor Solly Msimanga and subsequently resigned. At the time of her suspension Naidoo worked as a chief of staff within the metro police department.

Naidoo has been placed on suspension and is undergoing disciplinary hearings related to her alleged involvement in the issuing of the diploma.

The inclusion of her name on the shortlist of candidates had since raised eyebrows of employees within the City police in both Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

Ekuhuleni Metro Police Department boss General Isaac Mapiyeye confirmed to the Pretoria News that Naidoo was on suspension. He said: “I can’t understand why Tshwane is taking that route, because we shared with them information regarding what had happened to Naidoo and one of their senior employees.”

He declined to comment further on the matter. “The City of Tshwane knows very well what is happening,” he said.

Mapiyeye confirmed that Naidoo was suspended in connection with the signing off of Armstrong’s traffic diploma.

In June, Armstrong was placed on a three-month suspension by city manager, Dr Moeketsi Mosola, for allegedly violating public policy. Her suspension was effected following complaints that she fabricated her traffic diploma three years ago to register with the Transport Department as a traffic officer. The allegations were at the time investigated by the the Group Audit and Risk Department. It subsequently recommended Armstrong should repay an amount of R1.2 million she was paid from May 2013 to September 2014.

Armstrong’s qualifications were probed at the request of Tshilidzi Tsedu, a shop steward for the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu).

Tsedu wanted the forensic investigation to establish the validity of information on Armstrong’s CV, including her traffic diploma and certificate of registration as an authorised traffic officer.

According to the report, Tsedu stated that Armstrong received her traffic diploma at Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Training Academy on May 25, 2006, and an SAPS certificate on July 31, 2004.

Tsedu told investigators the traffic diploma was suspicious because from May 2006 up to September 30 of that year, Armstrong was employed by Tshwane. At the time, Armstrong held a civilian post as the commander at legal services. She was recently moved to head the crime prevention unit.

In her CV, Armstrong stated that she had a metro police diploma from the Ekurhuleni Academy and that she had registered with the Department of Transport as a traffic officer. However, it turned out that the information was fake, according to the forensic investigation.

Samwu had written a letter to the city manager to ascertain allegations doing the rounds that “a certain senior metro police official” from Ekurhuleni had been earmarked for the top job.

Its regional secretary Mpho Tladinyane said: “There is also an allegation that the said official is currently suspended for some serious misconduct.” The union had since requested the employer to disclose the information of all shortlisted candidates and whether all of them meet requirements in respect of the first advert, he said.

“In the interest of a fair and just processes, Samwu has since lodged a grievance and the employer should halt the recruitment process, failure to which we will have no option but to start an interdict process.”

Mayoral spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi could not be drawn into the matter surrounding Naidoo, but said candidates would undergo a detailed interview process where the City expected to identify the most suitable person for nomination to council.

“Meanwhile, our officers, under the leadership of MMC for Community Safety, Alderman Derrick Kissoonduth, will ensure that crime prevention and the enforcement of municipal by-laws continue unabated,” he said.

Mgobozi added that deputy police chief Jenny Malan continued to act as the chief of police on a month-to-month basis until a permanent appointment has been made.

Pretoria News