Parly pri­ori­tises big guns

The lion’s share of the House ed­u­ca­tion bud­get is al­legedly be­ing re­served for top-earn­ing of­fi­cials, while ju­nior staff bite the bul­let

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­

Sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment Gengezi Mgid­lana, who earns R2.8 mil­lion a year, se­cured more than R30 000 to study this year with­out ac­tu­ally ap­ply­ing for a bur­sary, while the ap­pli­ca­tions of a num­ber of lowrank­ing par­lia­men­tary staff were re­jected. In a doc­u­ment headed “2017 Bur­sary Ap­pli­ca­tions”, seen by City Press, Mgid­lana’s name is con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence. How­ever, Par­lia­ment sub­se­quently con­firmed it had been pay­ing his study costs, as part of his terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment, since De­cem­ber 2014.

How­ever, it could not be cat­e­gor­i­cally con­firmed whether Mgid­lana had re­ceived bur­saries in pre­vi­ous years.

Ques­tions have also been raised over the ap­pli­ca­tion for a R1.136 mil­lion bur­sary by Unathi Mtya, a top man­ager in the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion technology field, who was hired in the sec­ond half of 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, Mtya – who is Par­lia­ment’s new chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer – wants to pur­sue a mas­ter’s de­gree in technology man­age­ment at Columbia Univer­sity in the US.

City Press has seen a let­ter, dated Fe­bru­ary 1, from train­ing and de­vel­op­ment man­ager Le­buso Mony­atsi, in­struct­ing credit con­troller Tsholofelo Molefe to make di­rect pay­ments to the Univer­sity of SA (Unisa) in lieu of fees for Mgid­lana’s bur­sary.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, a R15 371.50 fee was payable on reg­is­tra­tion, and two amounts of R7 685.75 were to be paid by 16 May and 16 Au­gust.

Par­lia­ment spokesper­son Moloto Mothapo said the leg­is­la­ture had al­lo­cated a bur­sary bud­get of R1.5 mil­lion for this year when it in­vited staff to ap­ply for bur­saries.

He said out of 155 ap­pli­ca­tions to­talling R5.6 mil­lion – which far ex­ceeded the bud­geted R1.5 mil­lion – only 50 ap­pli­ca­tions could be ap­proved.

“While Par­lia­ment would have liked to as­sist each and ev­ery ap­pli­cant, the re­al­ity is that no bud­get is bot­tom­less.”

Mothapo said to en­sure fair­ness and equal op­por­tu­nity for all staff mem­bers, pref­er­ence was given to new ap­pli­cants who had not pre­vi­ously ben­e­fited from the bur­sary fund and who met ba­sic re­quire­ments.

He dis­missed as “out­ra­geously false” a claim that Par­lia­ment was send­ing Mtya to study in the US, al­though he ex­plained that as part of Mtya’s em­ploy­ment con­di­tions at Par­lia­ment, she would ben­e­fit from its bur­sary fund.

Mothapo told City Press that when Mtya was re­cruited by Par­lia­ment “fol­low­ing a lengthy search for a suit­ably qual­i­fied per­son”, she had al­ready been ac­cepted at Columbia Univer­sity and her stud­ies were to be spon­sored by her pre­vi­ous em­ployer.

Mothapo said Par­lia­ment would only con­trib­ute an amount equiv­a­lent to the cost of a sim­i­lar course lo­cally, but given the R1.5 mil­lion bud­get al­lo­cated for ed­u­ca­tion, “it is in­con­ceiv­able and im­prac­ti­cal that Par­lia­ment would hand over the al­leged R1.1 mil­lion – al­most the en­tire bur­sary bud­get – to one staff mem­ber”.

Mgid­lana’s sit­u­a­tion was not en­tirely dif­fer­ent in that, when Par­lia­ment en­gaged him in 2014, he was pur­su­ing his mas­ter’s de­gree in busi­ness lead­er­ship through Unisa, funded by his pre­vi­ous em­ployer, ac­cord­ing to Mothapo.

“[Since he be­came] a staff mem­ber, the in­sti­tu­tion took over the fund­ing of his stud­ies, in line with the train­ing and de­vel­op­ment pol­icy, to en­sure that his stud­ies [were] not un­duly com­pro­mised by his em­ploy­ment by Par­lia­ment,” he said.

Mothapo said that, with the ex­cep­tion of Mtya and Mgid­lana, the rest of the bur­sary ben­e­fi­cia­ries this year were ju­nior man­agers and or­di­nary staff.

In its writ­ten re­sponse to un­suc­cess­ful bur­sary ap­pli­cants, Par­lia­ment said it was im­pos­si­ble to ap­prove all bur­sary ap­pli­ca­tions be­cause it had lim­ited fi­nan­cial re­sources, and that the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived far ex­ceeded its avail­able bud­get.

One of the un­suc­cess­ful bur­sary ap­pli­cants, a par­lia­men­tary re­searcher, told City Press he had de­cided to put his stud­ies on hold as he could not af­ford to pay out of his own pocket or take a loan.

“I am very dis­ap­pointed be­cause I wanted to ex­pand my skills and ex­pe­ri­ence in analysing leg­isla­tive and re­lated work,” said the re­searcher.

An­other em­ployee, who needed about R50 000 from Par­lia­ment, ended up se­cur­ing a loan from a bank af­ter be­ing turned down by the em­ployer.

The em­ployee, who has a young fam­ily, had re­ceived a loan from Par­lia­ment last year and com­pleted an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree but wanted to fur­ther his stud­ies.

“It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand it when you are be­ing told that re­sources are lim­ited, and yet you have peo­ple at a higher salary level get­ting more than 20 times the bur­sary you wanted,” he said.

The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, Health and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Ne­hawu) crit­i­cised Par­lia­ment for not pri­ori­tis­ing ju­nior and mid-level staff. Disang Mocumi, Ne­hawu’s deputy chair at Par­lia­ment, called it “a con­tin­u­a­tion of abuse of power, cul­ture of en­ti­tle­ment and ex­ces­sive loot­ing and crude cor­rup­tion which vi­o­lates work­ers’ rights and un­der­mines col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing”.


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