De Lille’s powers to discipline suspended public works DG removed, given to Jackson Mthembu

Patricia de Lille. Picture: Moneyweb

Sam Vukela’s court bid to interdict his pending disciplinary inquiry was struck off the roll in the High Court in Pretoria.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille no longer has the mandate to discipline suspended public works director-general Sam Vukela after President Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew her delegating powers and granted it to Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.

This led to Vukela’s court bid to interdict his pending disciplinary inquiry to be struck off the roll in the High Court in Pretoria.

In his explanatory affidavit on behalf of Ramaphosa, the presidency’s principal state law advisor, Geofrey Mphaphuli, said Ramaphosa removed De Lille as the delegated authority after considering Vukela’s application.

“Upon considering the applicant’s application, the second respondent [Ramaphosa] has taken a decision to reassign the relevant delegation of authority to Jackson Mthembu, the Minister in the Presidency, to play an oversight role in the disciplinary proceedings instituted against the applicant [Vukela],” Mphaphuli said.

Ramaphosa believed this would be in the best interest of all parties.

“And will ensure that the disciplinary process is fair and seen to be fair and that it can proceed in order to have finality on the allegations made against the applicant.”

Vukela was suspended after a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) implicated him in allegations of fraudulent contract management and irregular payments in the planning of state funerals for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dr Zola Skweyiya and ambassador Billy Modise.

Vukela, in turn, claimed that De Lille gave him unlawful instructions and his refusal to execute these instructions caused friction between the two.

He claimed that De Lille put undue pressure on officials working on the Beitbridge border fence projects.

De Lille denied the Beitbridge border allegations, but admitted, in court papers, she once identified a service provider (for media services), but gave no instruction for procurement regulations to be flouted.

Her role in the Beitbridge border tender had also been questioned.

Last month, News24 reported that National Treasury hinted De Lille “had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind” for the R40-million Beitbridge border fence project.

Treasury raised concerns about De Lille’s directive, stating the department’s chief financial officer (CFO) “shall be advised as to the costs” of the project as costs were ordinarily determined based on the needs (from doing a site visit) and the bills of quantities.

During a meeting with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane asked, “if the CFO is going to be advised, the question then becomes by who and when what had happened”.

Ramaphosa’s appointment of Mthembu to oversee the disciplinary process would ensure the process ran smoothly, Mphaphuli told the court.

“As indicated earlier, no relief is sought against Ramaphosa in relation to the delegation. In any event, it appears from the applicant’s affidavit that his request was to consider the history of the relationship between the applicant and the first respondent and to reconsider the delegated authority in that context. Therefore the appointment of Minister Mthembu will ensure that disciplinary process is dealt with fairly and expeditiously,” Mphaphuli said.

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