Durban - The provincial Department of Education has been ordered to finalise high profile disciplinary cases involving senior staff members that have already cost it millions of rand in salaries and lawyers’ fees.
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Education, who on Tuesday expressed extreme displeasure about the delays, ordered that the department produce a report on the finalisation of the cases by next month.
It’s been a full year since two senior managers were suspended.
Committee members said the department was in financial difficulty and could not afford to pay salaries for people sitting at home, or spend money on private lawyers handling the cases.
Chairperson of the committee, Linda Hlongwa-Madlala, said the delays in settling the cases bordered on injustice. "You have these people who have earned R5 million while they are sitting at home. It cannot be that people earn so much money while they are sitting at home," she said.
On behalf of those facing the disciplinary cases, she said, "Secondly, justice delayed is justice denied."
Other members were equally critical. They demanded to know how much it had cost the department to have people acting in those positions.
"The department has also hired outside lawyers to handle the cases but there are state lawyers, how much have those lawyers been paid?" one member asked.
Member Jomo Sibiya said it was important that cases were finalised quickly, so they did not appear to be witch hunts.
Other members of the committee were more forgiving of the department’s use of external lawyers.
"Sometimes when you are sitting across the table (when there are legal proceedings against the department) and all these top lawyers are there, you can see they are very much big (better lawyers) than those of the department," said a member.
Head of Department Dr Enock Nzama said the delays were not due to the department failing to finalise the cases, but said those facing disciplinary cases engaged in delaying tactics.