Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko has been placed on precautionary suspension pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing.
Diko was charged with failing to disclose her financial interests, acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale confirmed to the Mail & Guardian.
Seale added that the disciplinary process against Diko was underway.
Diko, who went on “special leave” about six months ago, still enjoys a cushy salary, estimated at about R1.3-million a year. The M&G understands that Diko falls under the salary bracket of a government chief director. On that salary, Diko has been paid more than R500 000 while on special leave.
Diko has faced multiple blows. Her position as acting deputy director general for content processing and dissemination at the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) has also been terminated.
Government spokesperson Phumla Williams told the M&G that Diko’s acting position at GCIS fell away when she went on special leave.
“Ms Diko was never employed by GCIS. She was there on a secondment attached to one of our vacant posts. Once she was put on special leave that secondment fell away. Secondment arrangements, in terms of public service regulations, work on refunding the department that employed her. This was done every month based on the time she was working in GCIS. So this arrangement also fell away when she left,” Williams said.
But even after the contract was cancelled, a company called Ledla Structural Development, an alleged proxy for Royal Bhaca, received more than R38-million from the department. Diko’s husband is the sole director of Royal Bhaca.
The scandal resulted in Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku — a friend of the Dikos — getting the chop and facing disciplinary charges from the ANC in the province, together with Khusela Diko. The two, who sit in the provincial executive, have appeared before the party’s disciplinary committee for bringing the ANC into disrepute.
All parties have separately denied wrongdoing.
However, William Gumede — an associate professor at the school of governance at the University of the Witwatersrand — said Diko exemplified the state’s problem of spending billions on the paid leave of public officials.
Gumede said some officials are paid while on special leave for up to five years.
“If you are on paid leave for some kind of alleged wrongdoing, then really that is not a punishment. It only becomes a deterrent when one takes unpaid leave,” he said.
Gumede added that taking special leave for more than six months — as in the Diko case — was stretching her position’s limits.
“When you take leave for these kinds of things, the idea is three days. At the end of the day, it’s public money. It would be reasonable to expect a month where there will be an investigation, and then the public will then hear about the investigation. When you go to three months now, you may be talking abuse,” he said.
According to the public sector disciplinary code and procedure guidelines, precautionary suspension is an interim measure imposed by the employer, not as a disciplinary sanction, but for orderly administration.
Suspension does not amount to a breach of the employment contract, because the employee remains on full pay, although prevented by the employer from performing duties.
The guidelines add that suspension should ideally be for a period not longer than 30 days.