Questions that need answers

And its current disintegration.

The suspension of national archivist Dr Graham Dominy and his colleague Clive Kirkwood and the failure to reinstate them after their successful appeal highlight a deeper malaise.

This curious matter carries with it the smell of nepotism, attempts by an elected public representative to hijack selection processes, mendacious ­allegations with a view to creating opportunities for personal advancement, corruption of an ­internal ­disciplinary process and malicious attempts to discredit and render insolvent two individuals seeking to uphold their good names and reputations.

Their reputations derive from more than three decades of service and their exemplary careers.

The list of these machinations does not address the issue of the scarce skills that will be lost to the state and the country if this corrupt plot succeeds.

The department of public administration would be well advised to institute a full-scale enquiry into the department of arts and culture and its handling of this matter from beginning to end.

What needs to be researched, explained and made public are the answers to at least the following questions:

  • What processes of selection were under way in the department of arts and culture when accusations were levelled at the two officials and initial suspension and disciplinary action were invoked?
  • Which people connected with senior elected representatives were candidates for selection for senior posts in the department at that time?
  • Who made the allegations against the two officials?
  • When and how were the allegations first made?
  • Did any internal processes follow the initial allegations and what were the outcomes of earlier processes?
  • Who stood to gain from the ­sidelining of the two officials?
  • Have any of these benefitting people played any role in the ­department’s handling of this matter?
  • What is the total amount of state funds spent on the legal teams hired by the department in pursuing action against the two officials?
  • Who authorised this expenditure on legal proceedings, and on what grounds?
  • How many state legal advisers and how many members of the Bar did the department consult or instruct on this matter?
  • What was the nature of the advice given by the department’s legal advisers on the merits of the allegations against the two officials?
  • Have any state officials been required to stand surety or to accept responsibility for the funds spent on legal proceedings without any real prospect of achieving success?
  • How many of the department’s staff in decision-making and advisory roles, in pursuit of this action against the two officials, have been specifically named in Parliament as abusers of financial procedures?
  • How is it possible that an allegedly qualified presiding officer at an internal hearing can find the two officials guilty of charges that were never specified, were never laid and upon which no evidence or argument was led?
  • Were there any interactions between the presiding officer and department officials in terms of which draft findings were discussed prior to their release some six weeks later than the required deadline?
  • What was the department of arts and culture’s response to the required conciliation process? Who formulated that response, and on what grounds?
  • What has happened since the appeal finding by the arbitrator ordered the reinstatement of the two officials?
  • What is the expenditure incurred by the two officials in defending themselves?

Is there evidence to suggest mala fides operating in the pursuit of extended legal processes with the express purpose of bankrupting the two officials? – Tim Dunne, Cape Town

The Mail & Guardian has asked the department of arts and culture to respond to this letter and to the original piece by Shula Marks. They will do so in coming weeks.

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