National

Parliament secretary sacked for lying

Andisiwe Makinana

The saga surrounding a R18 6000 salary advance to secretary to Parliament Zingile Dingani, has proved a pricey lesson, according to the opposition.

Zingile Dingani. (Sunday Times)

Dingani is due to be fired by Parliament next Tuesday after a disciplinary hearing.

Political party leaders  told the Mail & Guardian the episode exposed deficiencies in Parliament's policies that needed to be addressed urgently.

Dingani was found guilty on two out of nine charges of misconduct this week. The other seven charges related to smaller, procedural matters.

The most serious charge related to Dingani misleading the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mninwa Mahlangu, into authorising the salary advance.

Deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo told journalists on Thursday that: "The finding on this charge highlights that the executive authority was improperly induced to sign a memorandum by the secretary to Parliament.

"This charge by itself contravenes several sections of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act]."

Too much power
The Democratic Alliance's member of the National Council of Provinces for Mpumalanga, Watty Watson,  said the case exposed certain administrative issues that the DA had long raised in Parliament, particularly regarding the powers that were given to officials and not to politicians.

"Officials are given too much power," he said, adding that big decisions were taken by administrators without the concurrence of chief whips.

Watson, however, was impressed with the speed with which the Dingani matter was dealt with.

Themba Godi, the chairperson of Parliament's standing committee on public accounts and the leader of the African People's Convention, also said the matter reflected poorly on Parliament.

"It is an expensive lesson for Parliament to ensure that it has got its policies in place. Whatever the outcome, it does point to some lapses at all levels, which should not be blamed on Dingani.

"Some level of accountability should be taken by others as well," said Godi.

"To say we were misled into believing we had a policy is not good enough."

Recommendation
Lance Witten, a labour-law specialist who was appointed by Parliament to chair the disciplinary process, recommended that Dingani be dismissed with immediate effect.

Both the ANC and the DA have indicated that they will support the recommendation.

Mfeketo said the executive authority, the speaker and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces were applying their minds to the recommendation. However, it was not up to them to take action, because the National Assembly had appointed Dingani.

In May, the auditor general recommended that Dingani be disciplined for spending R186 000 of Parliament's funds to build a wall around his home.

He also recommended disciplinary action against chief financial officer Leslie Mondo, who gave the instruction to Parliament's finance department to advance the money to Dingani.

Mondo was dismissed two weeks ago.

Parliament transferred the money to builders in December 2011 for the wall surrounding Dingani's home in Panorama in Cape Town's northern suburbs, despite not having approved the draft policy on salary and advances.

According to a report from the auditor general, Dingani misled Sisulu and Mahlangu when he applied for the advance by claiming Parliament's policies did in fact make provision for granting salary advances.


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