When the National Assembly tables its R2.2-billion 2017/2018 budget vote this afternoon, National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) will set its sights on the institution’s accounting officer, Gengezi Mgidlana.
Nehawu’s parliament chairperson, Sthe Thembe, told The Citizen their only hope was for the public protector to investigate and for parliament to institute an inquiry into Mgidlana’s conduct.
The latest battle between the trade union, representing the majority of workers employed in the public service, and the secretary to parliament is the latest declaration by parliament that there will be no salary increases for parliament employees for 2017/2018 financial year.
“We are not going to accept that as workers. Some provincial legislatures have received offers, while others have settled. DPSA has also settled annual increments at 7.3%. They are saying parliament has no money, but we are saying there is money that is wasted on corrupt tenders,” Thembe said.
Thembe said his organisation was unhappy with the ballooning of parliamentary protection services staff complement and irregular appointments to the office of the secretary to parliament.
Nehawu allege that one of the former members of the SABC board recently dissolved after a parliamentary inquiry was also offered a job in parliament.
“Forty protection officers were recently hired without following due recruitment procedures,” he said in reference to what opposition parties referred to as “white-shirt bouncers”. They were employed to prevent disruption of parliamentary sitting following the ‘pay back the money’ fiasco.
Nehawu is also aggrieved by Mgidlana’s alleged hiring of senior managers to his office, whose positions were not approved. Thembe added Nehawu was challenging their high salaries.
“The secretary to parliament has hired a divisional manager responsible for strategic business and office manager in the office of the secretary to parliament,” Thembe said, and he contended both positions were not budgeted for, as they were not on the approved parliament structure.
What also strains parliamentary payroll, according to Thembe, is that there seems to be jobs-for-pals scheme in parliament, with incumbents receiving average annual salaries of about R1.4 million.
Thembe alleged that one of the former members of the SABC board recently dissolved after a parliamentary inquiry was also offered a job in parliament, and not many officials in the corridors of the National Assembly were quite certain what his job description was.
Nehawu, in a complaint handed over to public protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, alleged there were a number of questionable tenders the institution had issued, which looked like they were designed for no other purpose other than to financially milk the National Assembly’s coffers.
Nehawu red-flagged 13 tenders Thembe explained were dodgy, as “they [the tenders] have alarming figures. R6 million, R15 million, R10 million” yet aimed at procuring services that highly paid executive managers were paid to do. He said that was wasteful expenditure, and they not were not needed.
“For example, the tender for handling the development of a framework for labour relations. Parliament has a fully fledged human resources department with experienced managers to produce such a document,” Thembe explained.
Nehawu’s other reason for rejecting parliament’s decision not to offer salary increases is based on what Thembe told The Citizen was obscene salaries paid to senior managers to the detriment of other parliament employees.
“We estimate that parliament’s 39 senior managers comprising divisional, unit and section managers gross about R40 million from the institution annually,” he said.
“The secretary to parliament earns R2.8 million. That means he earns more than the presiding officers and the deputy president. His salary is a R100 000 less than what the president earns,” he revealed.
If this figure is true, the secretary to parliament earns almost twice the salary of director-generals in line-function departments, a salary band Thembe argues parliament will never be able to justify.
“This man is greedy. For someone who earns that much money, he recently awarded himself a bursary of R30 000. He actually wrote a letter to himself asking for the approval of the award,” he claimed, and added Mgidlana failed to follow parliamentary policy in doing so.
“It is public knowledge that for many months he did not sign a performance contract. For anyone to receive that bursary you need a performance development plan,” Thembe claimed.
Another thorny matter Nehawu would like to see resolved is Mgidlana’s self-appointment to chair tender-adjudication committee. As with the bursary debacle, Thembe claimed Mgidlana wrote a letter to himself asking for the approval (by himself) of himself as the chairperson in contravention of the PFMA.
“Given all the allegations and the decisions he has previously made, we are not only concerned about flouting of procedures. We believe he is likely to award tenders to himself and friends. Besides, if the accounting officer chairs the committee who will resolve disputes, as he is already conflicted,” Thembe added.
Thembe told The Citizen he and his colleagues in parliament agreed that Mgidlana had totally destroyed the solid and camaraderie relationship the union had built with former secretaries to parliament over the years, and were hoping the public protector would recommend he be fired.
“Our members are ready to testify against this man to save parliament,” he declared.