Suspended public works director-general Sam Vukela has been “earning” a salary, totaling R3.3 million while waiting for his disciplinary case to be concluded.
The several court bids Vukela has instituted against his suspension and disciplinary process are at the heart of why the matter has been dragging.
On Tuesday, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and officials briefed the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Vukela’s disciplinary case.
The Presidency’s deputy director-general for corporate services, Matsietsi Mekoa, said that, to date, R3.3 million had been paid as remuneration to Vukela. He is, however, paying his own legal fees.
Vukela was placed on precautionary suspension by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille in July 2020, pending the finalization of his disciplinary proceedings.
He was suspended after a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers implicated him in allegations of fraudulent contract management and irregular payments in the planning of state funerals for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Zola Skweyiya, and Billy Modise.
Vukela believes the disciplinary inquiry, which is presently pending, is “unauthorized and cannot proceed”.
A tit-for-tat battle saw Vukela and De Lille making sweeping allegations against one another, with Vukela claiming De Lille had given him unlawful instructions and that his refusal to execute instructions had caused the friction between them
Soon after his suspension, Vukela filed a court application, in which he sought to interdict his pending disciplinary inquiry, claiming the process would not be fair if overseen by De Lille.
President Cyril Ramaphosa then removed De Lille as the delegated authority to oversee the disciplinary process – and appointed the late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.
This led to Vukela’s application being struck off the court roll.
Ramaphosa is responsible for the career incidents of department heads in the national government.
In August 2021, Mekoa said Vukela had made written representations to Mthembu, to ask for his suspension to be lifted.
“Having considered the seriousness of the charges against Vukela, the [late] minister decided that the suspension must continue until the finalization of the disciplinary processes. Vukela filed a dispute with the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC), challenging his suspension,” she said.
The GPSSBC hearing took place in December and is expected to continue in February.