Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a report into allegation of irregular appointments at Metrorail in the Western Cape. Picture: Bongani shilubane
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a report into allegation of irregular appointments at Metrorail in the Western Cape. Picture: Bongani shilubane

Public Protector report finds widespread irregular appointments at Western Cape Metrorail

By Tshego Lepule Time of article published Oct 10, 2021

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A REPORT by the public protector has found the appointment of several senior staff at Metrorail in the Western Cape were irregular and recommended steps be taken to declare salaries paid to them as irregular expenditure.

This comes eight years after an anonymous complaint was sent to the office of the public protector to probe widespread allegations of irregular appointment of staff at the time when former acting chief of the Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Mthuthuzeli “Mthura” Swartz, was the province’s regional manager.

On Friday Busisiwe Mkhwebane released the report which found that the appointment of six senior staff as well as the prolonged acting positions of four employees in various roles had been irregular.

Mkhwebane said it emerged during the investigation that some of the complaints were without merit, while others had already been dealt with by Metrorail through disciplinary actions.

However, she found that the allegations relating to the appointment of staff were substantiated given how some did not meet the minimum requirements of the posts they occupied.

Mkhwebane found that the appointment of BV Msengana, Malcolm Fritz and T Xola as presiding officers of disciplinary hearings on March 1, 2013, were not in line with relevant legislation. The posts, advertised in January, required that candidates have LLB or B Proc degrees, legal experience and extensive work knowledge of labour law.

However, none of the three successful candidates had a legal qualification or practical legal experience at the time.

It also emerged during the investigation that days after the trio’s appointment, Catherine Dire, the former Recruitment and Selection Manager, approached Swartz and logged a complaint about their lack of qualifications.

But none of them served out their two-year term as Msengana was reportedly dismissed for misconduct in September 2014, Xola resigned in December and Fritz was dismissed by Swartz and later won an unfair dismissal claim.

In the case of Cecilia Jam-Jam, who was appointed Transformation Manager on April 1, 2014, Mkhwebane’s report found that it was irregular given how she did not meet the minimum requirements either. Jam-Jam was one of two candidates interviewed for the position, both of whom reportedly did not have a legal or human resources degree or diploma. Jam-Jam at the time had a certificate in office administration and computer training.

The report also declared the appointment of Lumkile Mzukwa as area manager: customer services and later as customer services manager in 2013 as irregular. Mzukwa did not possess the requisite qualifications and experience for either position.

In the cases of Luyanda Matomane, Mzukwa, Emmarentia Fielding and Mbulelo Ngxonono, the report found that the group was appointed by Metrorail in various acting positions between 2013 and 2014, and paid acting allowances for periods exceeding three months with no documentation to indicate that approval for the extension of the acting period was sought. It was also found that Ngxonono acted in two different positions at the same time. Also, no documentation was found to support this action.

The report also found that the appointment of Themba Jack as the senior manager for human resources, by Prasa in 2012, had been irregular as he did not have the requisite bachelor’s degree.

Responding to the findings of the report relating to Jack’s appointment, Prasa’s Acting Human Capital Manager, Ranti Mahlabana, confirmed that the employee did not meet the minimum requirements for the job.

“The short-listing process was conducted by the then Regional Manager, Mr Swartz, under the guidance of the then Executive: Human Capital Management, Mr A Mokhobo, (who) gave approval to include the employee on the shortlist despite the fact that the employee did not meet the advertised minimum requirements,” read the report.

“Prasa has also confirmed that indeed, the employee had previously worked with other two panel members. All interview panel members bar (one) have left the employ of Prasa for various reasons.”

Mkhwebane in her recommendations, stated that both Prasa and Metrorail were to approach the courts to review the appointments as well as engage with National Treasury and internal auditors to declare the salaries paid to the employees as irregular expenditure.

An implementation plan from both entities is to be submitted to the Mkhwebane’s office in the next 30 days.

Metrorail’s spokesperson, Nana Zenani, said management was studying the judgment and the recommendations made within the report.

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