News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
4 minute read
28 Oct 2017
7:58 pm

Suspended Joburg ombudsman slapped with extra charges as the office faces closure

Gosebo Mathope

Gumede is also accused of bringing the city into disrepute for speaking to The Citizen while an institutional report recommends the ombudsman's office be phased out.

Advocate Sduduzo Gumede, the suspended City of Joburg Ombudsman

Following the labour court ruling which set aside the suspension of Joburg ombudsman Sduduzo Gumede, the city has informed Gumede’s laywers his disciplinary hearing will take place over three days. Gumede challenged his suspension in the labour court and the city indicated it will petition the labour court of appeals to overturn the ruling.

The Citizen has seen the notice of the hearing, in which Gumede was informed that “following an investigation into various acts of misconduct allegedly committed by you, the City has decided to institution disciplinary charges.”

The Citizen has previously reported how a legal service provider for the city, Werksmans Attorneys, provided mayor Herman Mashaba with an opinion recommending that Gumede not be suspended but the city rejected the advise and accused Werksmans Attorneys of failing to take into consideration additional information provided to it.

When asked to comment on the allegation of presenting shoddy work to the city, Werksmans Attorneys’ director Sandile July declined to discuss the matter with The Citizen, citing client confidentiality clause that protects privileged information from being provided to the media.

In turn, Gumede leveled allegations of “big law-firm shopping” against the mayor. He also questioned why he would be charged with not disclosing business interests in a company he was part of but never traded and was de-registered in 2009.

READ MORE: Mashaba on anti-ANC purging spree, critics allege

The charge sheet states that Gumede’s principal charge is “gross dereliction of duties, alternatively negligence, alternatively failure to act in the best interest of the Office of the Ombudsman and/or the City for failing to ensure that a service agreement between the city and Yeo Technologies (Pty) Ltd was signed prior to the company providing services to the office of the ombudsman.”

Gumede will also have to answer on why “he failed to invoke clause 10 of the agreement, that is, the penalties clause in terms of which penalties could be imposed” and why he failed to “request or ensure the extension of the agreement or procurement of an alternative solution timeously” when the contract with the service provider lapsed.

The city has brought an extra charge of bringing “the office of the Executive Mayor and/or the City of Joburg into disrepute in your engagements with the media,” including The Citizen. The hearing is expected to take place on the 6, 7 and 10 November with Adv Mzu Mthombeni acting as presiding officer while Bowman Gilfillian Inc. will be the initiator of the process.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 22: Councillors and party agents during an inaugural council meeting on August 22, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. During the council meeting DA’s Herman Mashaba received 144 votes, while ANC’s Parks Tau received 125 votes. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 22: Councillors and party agents during an inaugural council meeting on August 22, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. During the council meeting DA’s Herman Mashaba received 144 votes, while ANC’s Parks Tau received 125 votes. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

“For now, we have treated this role as one to be abolished.”

Meanwhile, the cancelled R29-million “institutional review” final report recommended that the office of the ombudsman must be abolished as there currently is no legislation for the establishment of an independent ombudsman for municipalities. It conceded, though, that “there are several benchmarks of similar-sized municipalities which have implemented such offices.”

This lack of “regulatory national or provincial legislative requirements,” as the report states, resulted in the office being established using a municipal by-law and recommends “one must revisit the basis on which the by-law was promulgated and the intentions for which this office was established.”

“For now, we have treated this role as one to be abolished. If an Ombudsman role is deemed to be required, as an outcome of the detailed phases to be done, be it in this form or any other independent and objective structure, this discussion will form part of our future projects,” the report presented to the city by a joint venture between Neo Africa Solutions and SSM Attorneys said.

Christo Marais, the acting executive director of corporate and shared services, earlier this week told The Citizen the tender was cancelled after an out-of-court settlement was reached with a losing bidder who argued the integrity of the tender process was compromised and added “though [the] adjudication process suffered from deficiencies, this in itself does not mean that the institutional review process can be termed as fruitless or wasteful.”

When contacted for comment Gumede declined to discuss the charges, saying he welcomes the opportunity to give his side of the story during the process.

http://https://www.citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1582709/mashaba-so-called-human-rights-lawyers-are-making-my-work-difficult/

You can follow the author @Gosebo_Mathope.

For more news your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.