Ministerial Adviser agrees to fork out R12 000 monthly over three years to settle R450 000 over-payment
14 September 2021
A ministerial adviser at the Department of Transport has agreed to pay back over R450 000 in 38 monthly instalments of R12 000 after the Public Protector not only found that he was overpaid over a 19-month period but also that he was irregularly appointed.
He is one of two Special Advisers found in a recent investigation to have been irregularly appointed and overpaid. The Director-General and the Minister have assured the Public Protector that the excess payments are being recovered from the second adviser.
This follows an investigation allegations of maladministration and improper conduct in connection with the appointment of the ministerial advisers by the department. A complaint from a group of anonymous departmental staff prompted the investigation.
The complainants alleged that Minister Fikile Mbalula and DG Alec Moemi irregularly appointed Messrs. L Venkile, K. Khoza and B. Mpondo. They also alleged irregularity in respect of the appointment of Ms. T Mpondo.
Among other things, they alleged that Mr. Venkile was appointed as the Adviser to Minister Mbalula in 2019 at the salary level of a Deputy Director- General (DDG).
However, his appointment was alleged to have not been subjected to confirmation by then Minister of Public Service and Administration, Mr. Senzo Mchunu, as required by the applicable regulations.
The allegations concerning Mr. Khoza bore a resemblance to those involving Mr. Venkile. Mr. Khoza, too, was allegedly appointed as the Adviser to Minister Mbalula and was remunerated at the level of a DDG.
Like Mr. Venkile’s, Mr. Khoza’s appointment was allegedly not confirmed by Minister Mchunu as required.
The allegations pertaining to Mr. Mpondo were that he was appointed as the Adviser to the Minister in 2019 and subsequently moved to a different post within the department, effectively becoming an official. Normal recruitment prescripts were allegedly not followed.
Mr. Mpondo’s appointment in that fashion allegedly paved the way for his secondment as Administrator to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). His appointment as Adviser too had allegedly not been confirmed by Minister Mchunu.
Lastly, the complainants alleged that Ms. T. Mpondo, then a Parliamentary Liaison Officer in the Ministry at the level of a Deputy Director, was elevated to a Senior Manager position at the command of DG Moemi.
The appointment of Special Advisers is regulated by the Dispensation for the Appointment and Remuneration of Persons Appointed by the Executive Authorities on Ground of Policy Consideration in terms of section 12A of the Public Service Act.
This policy provides that the Executive Authorities must submit recommendations for the appointment of individual Special Advisers to the Minister of Public Service and Administration for approval of the individual’s compensation level.
Such approval should be sought BEFORE the appointment is effected.
Following the investigation, the Public Protector found that the appointments of Messrs. Venkile, Khoza and Mpondo respectively, were contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Act and other prescripts applicable to the department.
She also found that Messrs. Venkile and Khoza were irregularly paid salaries which were equivalent to that of a DDG whilst their appointment had not been approved by the Minister of Public Service and Administration.
Their appointments were done contrary to the Dispensation for the Appointment and Remuneration of Persons Appointed by the Executive Authorities on Ground of Policy Consideration in terms of section 12A of the Public Service Act.
Mr. Venkile’s offer of appointment is dated 1 June 2019. However, Minister Mchunu, who noted the anomaly and brought to Minister Mbalula’s attention, only approved the appointment on 27 August 2019. Mr. Venkile earned R1 446 378.00 per annum.
Mr. Khoza was also appointed by Minister Mbalula before approval by Minister Mchunu. Mr. Khoza’s appointment offer is dated 21 March 2020 while Minister Mchunu only approved the appointment on 11 November 2020.
Mr. Khoza was on compensation level III, on a salary range of R1 521 591.00 – R1 714 074 per annum.
Both appointments were made on condition that they were subject to a determination by Minister Mchunu and that should the salary payment end up being an overpayment, the excess would be recovered from the appointees.
The Public Protector further found that Mr. Mpondo was appointed by Minister Mbalula before approval by Minister Mchunu. His offer of appointment is dated 15 November 2019 and no approval was made by Minister Mchunu.
On 5 December 2019, Minister Mbalula terminated Mr. Mpondo's employment contract as the Special Adviser and simultaneously offered him a contract of employment as a Project Manager in the Department.
Mr. Mpondo was subsequently seconded him as an Acting Group Chief Executive Officer to PRASA. He never earned any salary as Special Advisor as that process was abandoned when it became apparent that he was needed at PRASA.
The Western Cape High Court in Cape Town, on 25 August 2020, subsequently declared unlawful and set aside Minister Mbalula’s appointment of Mr. Mpondo as an acting Chief Executive Officer and Accounting Authority of PRASA.
The allegation that Ms. Mpondo was elevated to the position of Senior Manager contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Act and other prescripts applicable to the department was found to have no basis.
Mr. Venkile has conceded that he is indebted to the department in the amount of R 455 984.50. He will repay the department in monthly instalments of R 11 999, 60 for a period of three years, stretching from April 2021 to May 2024.
Minister Mbalula and DG Moemi undertook to recover the overpayment to Mr. Khoza. They have given the Public Protector an assurance in this regard.
As part of remedial action, the Public Protector directed Minister Mbalula to ensure that he summits recommendations for future Special Adviser appointments to the Minister of Public Service and Administration BEFORE the appointees assume duty.
Minister Mbalula was further directed to ensure that all future contracts of employment, performance agreements and security clearance of Special Advisers are submitted to the Minister of Public Service and Administration as required by the Dispensation Policy.
DG Moemi was directed to ensure that all the overpayments, salaries and emoluments paid to Messrs. Venkile and Khoza are recovered in full.
The Minister of Public Service and Administration was urged to ensure that all Ministers and Deputy Ministers receive awareness and training regarding the procedures and processes to be followed in the appointment of Special Advisers.