Education Department confirms suspension of managers


The Free State Department of Education has confirmed the suspension of five managers working at the department’s various warehouses.
This follows allegations of fraud, corruption and nepotism surfacing within the ten Learning, Support and Teaching Material (LSTM) warehouses across the province.
Voice broke the story about the suspensions after employees had revealed that their respective managers did not report for duty for over a month. The five managers at the department’s ten warehouses are at the center of the controversy, with some managing more than one warehouse. A total of 628 workers is employed on contract basis.
Spokesperson Howard Ndaba confirmed that the department’s Anti-crime and Corruption Unit has been investigating shenanigans at these warehouses, following Voice breaking the story earlier this year.
“The Anti-crime and Corruption Unit is investigating all allegations this newspaper has reported. We have a responsibility to investigate the allegations, including the unprocedural appointments of warehouse packers, among others,” Ndaba explained.
The department added that at the time it also received information from an anonymous whistle-blower.
“The suspension of these managers are based on different allegations. In order for the department to freely conduct its own investigations, we felt we needed to remove them so that we can allow the process to take place without any interference. It is very important to take note that these managers are not guilty yet, we are still investigating the matter. The outcome of the investigations will determine whether these managers will return to their old jobs once all the probes have been completed.”
Ndaba indicated that the five managers have been suspended with full pay of their salaries. Some of the allegations and issues include:
• Intimidation of employees.
• Appalling working conditions and contract employees earning peanuts – struggling to apply for social grants and qualifying for an RDP house – because they have Persal numbers.
• Appointment of workers has been the reason that the Public Servants’ Association of South Africa (PSA) previously declared a dispute with the department.
• The department decided that it was premature to say whether these workers would be permanently employed before their three-year contract would end in December this year.
• The contracted employees said they have pleaded with the department for years to be employed permanently.
• Most employees have allegedly been hired through political connections and some of their positions were created as ghost workers (as they earned salaries) while not doing any work.
• Some officials have been seen handing over payslips from a boot of a car.
• The job descriptions on some of these workers’ payslips, when they started working three years ago, were listed wrongfully, stating the employees were doing administrative jobs.
Ndaba mentioned investigations are still ongoing and must still be finalised.
The warehouses store learning material which is distributed to schools across the province. Each district has a warehouse that will be responsible for dispersing the learning material.
Ndaba further reiterated that at the time they hired these workers, the situation required them to be hired on contract basis.
“You employ contract workers because of a need for that service. All we can say is that our relationship with these workers will end when their contracts expire. We will assess at that time whether we will permanently need this kind of service that they are offering, or not. There’s a team of our officials looking into the matter.”
Ndaba also confirmed the suspension of Itumeleng Lesang, the head of distribution, and couldn’t reveal further details about his suspension, sighting that the matter is sub judice. He clarified that Lesang’s suspension is not at all related to the five recently suspended managers.
“Lesang’s issue is under investigation and if we comment on it, we will be prejudicing the investigation. Can we please respect that process? There are people who are looking into Lesang’s matter and we need to respect both parties. Can we respect an issue that if there is an investigation, it would be improper for any party to publicly comment on issues that are being investigated because it will create problems.”
The department isn’t aware of the alleged disgruntled security guards based at the Tempe warehouse in Bloemfontein. Their discontent apparently involves their salaries. – Refilwe Gaeswe