Finance analyst Brandon Ellse was testifying before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in the case between former PBO staff member Dr Sean Muller and Parliament.
Muller has taken Parliament to the CCMA, alleging unfair labour practice after he was “overlooked” for a promotion.
He has since quit his job.
Muller asked Ellse if he had ever done an assignment for Van Rooyen.
“No ways have I done or completed an assignment for the minister. That is not true. It would have been silly for me to,” he said.
Ellse explained that as part of his job in the PBO office he provided support to MPs as capacity building was a priority.
This was done across the political spectrum, he said.
“If I don’t support MPs, I won’t be doing my job,” he said.
Muller has testified at the CCMA that staff members were being told to do things that were outside of their job descriptions.
Ellse explained that all he had done was give tutelage to some MPs in issues relating to tax and other areas in which he was interested.
He had been asked by the PBO’s director to have a look at questions from Van Rooyen and provide guidance if he had time.
After reading the questions, he said, he had then decided to explain a related concept to Van Rooyen.
The whole process did not last more than 25 minutes, he said.
“Nothing I could have given Van Rooyen could have been submitted as an assignment,” he insisted.
All they do is explain to MPs concepts that would help them do their jobs, he said.
He was asked the same question from different angles by Muller but he was adamant that he had not completed an assignment for Van Rooyen or assisted him with completing it.
He was never commanded or directed to do political work, he said.
He was concerned about the version that was out in the media, which stemmed from Muller’s testimony at the CCMA.
“It’s just sadly loosely related to reality. I have no doubt: I think you remembered a particular set of events, which is not quite how it happened. Your recollection of the events is quite skewed,” Ellse said.
Other MPs, including Democratic Alliance members, had asked him for advice as a finance analyst and he had been happy to provide it, in relation to their work, he said.
CCMA commissioner Madeleine Loyson raised concerns about the direction of the questions Muller was asking, as they seemed to be focused on politics.
They were not related to the matter at hand, she said.
“That is not the purpose of the CCMA – to ventilate political issues. I will not allow this institution to be abused,” she said.
Muller alleges that he was passed over for a deputy director of economics position at the PBO because he refused to perform political favours.
He has also questioned the work of the panel that had been involved in the selection process.
Fishing for information
Another witness, deputy director of finance Dr Dumisani Jantjies, to whom Ellse reports, has also denied that staff members were called on to do political work.
Jantjies was also asked if he had ever assisted Van Rooyen with tasks that were outside of the work environment.
“Mr Van Rooyen was an MP, and I provided assistance to him as member of the committee during the time when he was a whip of the committee, with work of the committee, that’s all,” he said.
Muller questioned all his witnesses on whether any staff members had been asked to write political speeches of any kind at the PBO.
“I haven’t done it. I don’t know if anyone else has,” Jantjies said.
Jantjies was also questioned on whether he had told other staff members that he had done academic work for Van Rooyen.
“No, I don’t remember telling anyone that. The assistance I remember giving Van Rooyen is relating to texts of the finance committee, and that is all,” he said.
Muller was again accused of fishing for information by Mpumelelo Tabata, who was representing Parliament.