FFC STAFF CLAIM THEY WORK IN FEAR

Em­ploy­ees have ac­cused the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s lead­er­ship of im­proper con­duct, rang­ing from sex­ual ha­rass­ment to the du­pli­ca­tion of salaries

CityPress - - Business & Tender - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­press.co.za

Staff at the Fi­nan­cial and Fis­cal Com­mis­sion (FFC), an in­de­pen­dent fis­cal re­search in­sti­tu­tion, claim to be work­ing in a cli­mate of fear be­cause of chair­per­son Daniel Plaatjies.

The FFC, a chap­ter 13 in­sti­tu­tion, is man­dated to make rec­om­men­da­tions and pro­vide ad­vice to or­gans of state in the na­tional, provin­cial and lo­cal spheres of govern­ment.

Mul­ti­ple for­mer and ex­ist­ing FFC staff mem­bers have lev­elled a num­ber of ac­cu­sa­tions against the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment; vic­tim­i­sa­tion of staff; threats made; thou­sands of rands wasted on ad­ver­tised posts, with­out ap­point­ments hav­ing been made; pay­ing du­pli­cated salaries for the same se­nior po­si­tions; and giv­ing the green light to ex­ec­u­tive salary hikes, de­spite a mora­to­rium.

Plaatjies was ap­pointed as chair­per­son in July 2017. He was ap­par­ently brought in to im­ple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions, fol­low­ing a scathing foren­sic in­ves­tiga­tive re­port into al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and cor­rup­tion un­der the com­mis­sion’s for­mer CEO, Bon­gani Khu­malo, who left in Au­gust 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple sources, Plaatjies is now rul­ing with an iron fist. He is al­legedly us­ing the foren­sic re­port to threaten im­pli­cated staff mem­bers, claim­ing that they are at his mercy.

“He al­ways says that he pro­tected them from the foren­sic re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions, and as such, they must do as they are told with­out ques­tion,” said a source.

“So, the foren­sic re­port has be­come his form of am­mu­ni­tion to si­lence staff.

“In ad­di­tion, peo­ple’s salaries have been tam­pered with and frozen with­out con­sul­ta­tion. Dur­ing staff meet­ings, we are threat­ened and in­sulted. We are called evil peo­ple and told that we are noth­ing spe­cial. We are al­ways told that the door is open if we want to leave.”

The FFC is fork­ing out for two chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cers (CFOs) and two CEOs.

Velile Mbethe was ini­tially sec­onded to the FFC by Na­tional Trea­sury as its act­ing CEO in Septem­ber 2016.

“Khu­malo’s con­tract ended on Au­gust 31 2016 and he was re­leased from his du­ties,” said Trea­sury in re­sponse to the mat­ter.

“Mbethe was sec­onded to the FFC in order to fa­cil­i­tate the achieve­ment of ob­jec­tives and to en­sure sta­bil­ity at the FFC.”

How­ever, when a new chief ex­ec­u­tive, Kay Brown, was ap­pointed and joined the com­mis­sion on April 1 last year, she re­quested that Mbethe’s term be ex­tended in order to do a han­dover, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Trea­sury.

Mbethe is still be­ing paid his CEO salary.

The cur­rent act­ing CFO is Sihle Mkhize; the sus­pended CFO is Mavuso Vok­wana.

Plaatjies said the sus­pen­sion of Vok­wana fol­lowed a num­ber of whis­tle-blower re­ports.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was re­cently forced to pay out an em­ployee, Don­ald Sibanda, af­ter he ap­par­ently dis­agreed with Plaatjies dur­ing a staff meet­ing and was even­tu­ally fired. Af­ter tak­ing his case to the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion, the com­mis­sion had to pay Sibanda a set­tle­ment.

Sibanda de­clined to com­ment on the mat­ter when con­tacted by City Press.

An­other long-serv­ing em­ployee, Hammed Amusa, re­signed be­cause of al­leged on­go­ing vic­tim­i­sa­tion, which he hints at in his scathing res­ig­na­tion let­ter, writ­ten in Novem­ber. City Press has seen the let­ter.

Amusa also would not com­ment to City Press.

Un­der Plaatjies, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has ap­par­ently spent thou­sands of rands in ad­ver­tis­ing for jobs, of­ten with­out ap­point­ing or even in­ter­view­ing ap­pli­cants, claim a num­ber of sources.

The FFC ad­ver­tised a post for an of­fice man­ager, earn­ing R697 000 per an­num, in Au­gust. How­ever, the po­si­tion does not ap­pear on the com­mis­sion’s organogram, the sources say.

Staff were also made to sign an “oath of se­crecy”, which they say gags them from dis­clos­ing any­thing re­lated to the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

This oath of se­crecy was al­legedly cir­cu­lated shortly be­fore Plaatjies and his team ap­peared be­fore Par­lia­ment’s fi­nance com­mit­tee in Septem­ber.

Speak­ing to City Press this week, Plaatjies said that al­most the en­tire staff of the FFC had ben­e­fited from ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties at the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­fore his ar­rival. “Many staff, past and present, have ben­e­fited from ir­reg­u­lar hu­man re­source re­mu­ner­a­tion prac­tices per­tain­ing to per­for­mance bonuses, as well as from salary in­creases based on non-ex­is­tent notches and from out-of-the-or­di­nary and ex­tremely gen­er­ous re­mu­ner­a­tion re­wards.”

Plaatjies said some peo­ple had ten­dered their res­ig­na­tion to avoid hav­ing to face dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

“A num­ber of peo­ple have de­cided to ex­er­cise their con­sti­tu­tional right [to re­sign] as a re­sult of the mul­ti­ple in­ter­ven­tions made – in­clud­ing where dis­ci­plinary ac­tion is re­quired or po­ten­tial crim­i­nal charges are re­quired to be laid – un­der my lead­er­ship,” said Plaatjies.

“Oth­ers have re­signed be­cause they do not want to be part of the new or­gan­i­sa­tional lead­er­ship and man­age­ment changes re­quired to re­store the pro­fes­sional in­tegrity of the FFC.

“We at the com­mis­sion will not steer away from our pub­lic and con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to ... ex­punge the in­sti­tu­tion of any ir­reg­u­lar, fraud­u­lent and un­pro­fes­sional be­hav­iour which di­min­ishes the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of the FFC and com­pro­mises the pub­lic’s trust in the com­mis­sion.”

EX­EC­U­TIVE SALARY HIKES

In re­sponse to DA MP Alf Lees dur­ing his ap­pear­ance in Par­lia­ment in Septem­ber, Plaatjies said the ex­ec­u­tive salary hikes ef­fected from April last year for some se­nior staff were ap­proved by Brown. This, de­spite then fi­nance min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba hav­ing placed a mora­to­rium on ex­ec­u­tive salaries in Novem­ber 2017, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter which City Press has seen.

How­ever, in con­trast to the ex­ec­u­tive re­mu­ner­a­tion, or­di­nary staff mem­bers had their salaries frozen and no bonuses were paid.

Na­tional Trea­sury has said Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tito Mboweni is re­view­ing the FFC’s re­mu­ner­a­tion re­port for the last fi­nan­cial year.

Plaatjies said dis­ci­plinary ac­tion was al­ready be­ing taken against some of the em­ploy­ees im­pli­cated in the foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port con­ducted by Na­tional Trea­sury. But so far, only one per­son, Vok­wana, is known to have faced dis­ci­plinary ac­tion. To date, no other staff im­pli­cated in the re­port is fac­ing dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

SEX­UAL HA­RASS­MENT

An FCC staff mem­ber, who City Press can­not name be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, claims she was sex­u­ally ha­rassed by a se­nior man­age­ment of­fi­cial.

This, af­ter the of­fi­cial al­legedly made an of­fen­sive re­mark to her in isiXhosa in Novem­ber. He is al­leged to have said: “Waze wabentsa kam­nandi’ – loosely trans­lated, it means: “You have opened your legs nicely.”

The staffer is not isiXhosa-speak­ing, but she later re­ported the mat­ter when she un­der­stood what it meant. Sources claim that she was sent from pil­lar to post and noth­ing was done.

Ac­cord­ing to a source close to the mat­ter, the sus­pect is one of the un­touch­ables be­cause he is seen as be­ing very close to Plaatjies.

“The lady does not speak isiXhosa, but af­ter she learnt what he said to her, she was trau­ma­tised and went to hu­man re­sources to re­port him,” the source said.

Noth­ing came of it un­til she went to the doc­tor and was booked off sick for five days.

“Un­til to­day, no hear­ing has been sched­uled and [the of­fi­cial] is roam­ing up and down the pas­sages. We fear for our safety,” said the source.

Ac­cord­ing to a copy of the griev­ance let­ter, the staff mem­ber said the in­ci­dent had left her feel­ing ter­ri­fied.

The of­fi­cial, whose name is cur­rently be­ing with­held on le­gal ad­vice, de­clined to com­ment and re­ferred City Press to Plaatjies.

“The FFC can­not risk lit­i­ga­tion by di­vulging the pri­vate in­for­ma­tion of past or present em­ploy­ees in the pub­lic do­main,” said Plaatjies in re­sponse to var­i­ous ques­tions put to him on the mat­ter.

“The FFC is not at lib­erty to com­ment on the in­ter­nal pro­cesses be­ing un­der­taken against any spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als, un­til such pro­cesses are com­pleted and dealt with in terms of the ap­pro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion and pro­ce­dural rules. These mat­ters are con­fi­den­tial and be­tween said par­ties.”

THE FOREN­SIC RE­PORT

The R1.3 mil­lion foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port, which is al­legedly be­ing used by Plaatjies to black­mail staff, largely im­pli­cated Vok­wana, who is still on the FFC pay­roll.

The re­port, which City Press has seen, im­pli­cates Vok­wana in abus­ing the com­mis­sion’s phone and data fa­cil­i­ties for his per­sonal use. He ap­par­ently racked up a bill of more than R50 000 over two years.

While the re­port rec­om­mends var­i­ous ac­tions to be taken against Vok­wana, it also im­pli­cates sev­eral other em­ploy­ees.

The FFC’s for­mer CEO, Khu­malo, told City Press that he had never been ap­proached or even told about find­ings against him.

Vok­wana did not re­spond to ques­tions sent by City Press, de­spite giv­ing an un­der­tak­ing to do so.

Some of the peo­ple im­pli­cated are still em­ployed at the FFC and have had no ac­tion taken against them.

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