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‘No more golden handshakes’ – Van Rooyen

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No more golden handshakes. This is the word from Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen, who yesterday ordered the 278 municipalities under his watch to stop making settlement agreements – better known as “golden handshakes” – because they drain millions away from service delivery and compromise municipal budgets.

Van Rooyen effectively accused political principals and town councils of a lax attitude on public funds. He said golden handshakes, which ran into millions, were often awarded to municipal managers and senior officials to induce them to leave their positions when they were no longer wanted by their political principals or councils.

Speaking to about 200 local government officials in Centurion, near Pretoria, Van Rooyen warned that more arbitrary dismissals of municipal managers were likely in the run-up to the August 3 local government elections. Such “irregular actions” had been common previously as elections approached.

“Experience has shown that during this transitional period many municipalities enter into settlement agreements with senior managers for reasons other than misconduct [or] their performance.

“This usually culminates in huge sums of public funds, committed to enhancing service delivery, being spent on defending arbitration cases with huge and unjustified pay-outs to these managers.

“Municipalities are urged to ensure that any termination of a contract of a senior manager is based on legal grounds,” said Van Rooyen.

“We are monitoring the appointment and suspension of senior municipal officials in the run-up to the elections and in the post-election period.

“I want to assure all municipal managers that we have your back.”

The tendency is said to be even more prevalent at national level.

In the recent past the government has paid millions to senior officials as part of settlements that eject them from their jobs.

Former Hawks head Anwa Dramat received a R3-million payout and R60000 a month until he reaches 60, for a total of R13-million, in return for his resignation.

Former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona’s settlement amount was not disclosed and SA Airways former CEO Monwabisi Kalawe settled for R2.7-million.

National Prosecuting Agency head Mxolisi Nxasana received an estimated R17.3-million to convince him to go home.

The acting director-general of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Muthotho Sigidi, told The Times that the department had amended the Municipal Systems Act to include a provision that bans municipal officials found guilty of corruption from being hired again by a local government for 10 years.

Suspension of municipal officials should last no more than three months, after which their disciplinary hearings should be concluded.

Sigidi said the department was keeping a list of fired officials.

He insisted that municipalities must allow disciplinary proceedings to conclude before awarding a golden handshake. He said the department favoured settlement agreements reached on the basis of recommendations made at the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing.

Municipalities often made settlements without waiting for the outcome of a disciplinary hearing, resulting in payments being made even when officials would have been found guilty of an offence.

“The department wants a situation in which, when a municipality enters into a disciplinary hearing, it must deal with it until the end and let the golden handshake be an outcome or recommendation of that disciplinary hearing,” said Sigidi.

“When a council takes a decision to award a golden handshake, we are not able to determine whether the official charged was innocent or guilty of wrongdoing and, in the case of the latter, we are unable to prevent their re-entry [into local government].

Said Sigidi: “If a municipality has fired someone, it is its responsibility to report that to the [department].”

[Source: Times Live]
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