Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille has the backing of the ANC in her quest to overhaul her department and get rid of officials who were irregularly appointed between 2017 and last year.
The investigation was initiated by her predecessor Thulas Nxesi to look into 688 appointments made during this period.
Its findings were presented to the minister in February this year.
However, De Lille now faces a revolt from 12 senior managers whose appointments were flagged as having been irregular.
They have approached the courts to oppose the application to set aside their appointments.
De Lille’s spokesperson, Zara Nicholson confirmed this, but added that the 12 had failed to file their answering court papers by the August 8 deadline.
Nicholson also told City Press that De Lille, who leads her own political party, Good, was merely executing recommendations of the Public Service Commission (PSC) report and continuing the work started by Nxesi.
“The former minister [Nxesi] brought the application to set aside the irregular appointments pursuant to the recommendations of the PSC investigation in this regard. Minister De Lille is continuing with the work of her predecessor, said Nicholson.
“The implementation of the recommendations is a public administration issue falling within the powers and functions of the minister as provided for in the Public Service Act and the Constitution.”
She said De Lille has a contingency plan to stabilise the department should the court grant the order she is seeking.
“The minister will [without pre-empting the outcomes of the court application], follow the normal recruitment process as prescribed by the Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations, including the department’s recruitment policy and in the interim acting appointments may be considered to mitigate the risks associated with vacancies in critical posts,” said Nicholson.
The irregularities in staff appointments were exposed following a PSC investigation in February this year which looked into allegations that 688 officials were irregularly appointed between 2017 and last year.
Phase 1, which was concluded in February, of the report showed that 12 out of 37 appointments in the top senior management structure were irregular.
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Nicholson said in light of the report, “the minister is not only entitled to review the findings but is duty bound by law and the Constitution to approach the court to review and set aside any irregular appointment/s in her department”.
She said the court application by De Lille was not an indictment on former ANC ministers who ran the department before her but the action was necessitated by her new role.
According to Nicholson, “the department can confirm that the application to review and set aside the appointments has already been served to all affected senior managers, filed at court and is now waiting for the affected employees to file the answering papers”.
Disciplinary action, which was postponed in May this year, will still be pursued against the members of the panel which interviewed the irregularly appointed officials.
The hearings were postponed because of procedural flaws in the process.
“At this stage, the initiators are finalising the logistical arrangements for members of the panel,” she said.
The court date has not yet been set for the 12 managers’ case since all parties affected are still exchanging papers. Nicholson revealed that only one person, whose appointment was found to be irregular, had resigned.
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