Scientist wants to sue National Research Foundation, if he can raise funding

Mojalefa Murphy says he tried to highlight financial abuse at the NRF, only to find himself becoming the target.

South African scientist Mojalefa Murphy, who left the country 12 years ago for Canada after a bitter dispute with his employer, the National Research Foundation (NRF), wants to sue the NRF – if he can raise the funds to launch a legal battle.

The dispute followed iThemba Labs deputy director Murphy’s 2002 investigation into the financial manager. The probe was blocked by the NRF human resources director and its CEO.

“I discovered the financial manager was allegedly fraudulently benefiting from the company’s coffers, mismanaged, abused and exploited its artisans and used the NRF’s materials to refurbish his house.”

Despite reporting this to the NRF board chairperson, the department of science and technology director-general and the public protector, no steps were taken against the official.

He added: “The financial manager and the director stonewalled the public protector’s investigators. For this investigation, I found myself isolated in the company, harassed daily, suspended and forced to consider resigning.”

The public protector recommended the NRF institute an independent investigation and Deloitte and Touche was commissioned in 2004. The investigators asked Murphy to testify and for access to his bank accounts.

“I relocated my family to Canada after being shut out of employment in my area of expertise in SA. I was denied access to the Deloitte report … I needed it to clear my name after being suspended and conned into resigning on the grounds that I would be able to further my career abroad.”

In 2009, Murphy unsuccessfully launched a court application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act to get access to the report and minutes of the NRF board meetings where his resignation was decided.

“Since 2011, I have been pursuing an appeal. The NRF exploited every legal technicality to avoid my appeal being heard by a full bench.”

In June this year, the NRF finally let him read the Deloitte report, the public protector’s reports and the minutes of the board meeting where it was discussed.

“The report reveals my termination of employment contract was secured by harassment, fraud and concealment by the employer. It is damning about iThemba Labs’ director as it shows he was in cahoots with the financial manager.

“It is also damning on the NRF top management, CEO and chairperson. Read with the public protector’s report, the Deloitte report indisputably reveals dereliction of duty by both the lab and the NRF.”

– brians@citizen.co.za

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