Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Koorapetse has accused Permanent Secretary in the minisrty of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development Pearl Ramokoka of being a ‘bully’. The clearly agitated MP asked Minister Thapelo Mabeo in Parliament: “Are you aware that your Permanent Secretary is bullying her staff to the point where some people are even suffering from strokes?
“What is wrong in that ministry? Why are you not addressing problems in your ministry”? Koorapetse’s outbursts were in response to Mabeo’s answer regarding one female officer on D3 salary scale in the ministry (name withheld) who has been paid close to half a million Pula for the past 24 months while she does not do any work. This happened after the officer disputed her transfer from the department of Labour where she worked as Principal Industrial Relations Officer to the department of Gender Affairs as Senior Gender Officer (D4) in the former Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs on the 28th September 2016.
According to minister Mabeo, the officer did not honour the transfer claiming that the Director at her new duty station did not give her work. But, responding to Botswan Guardian through her attorney Letsweletse Martin Dingake this week, the employee explained that the reasons for her transfer were not advanced, neither was there consultation in accordance with The General Orders 12. “I did not refuse the transfer, I recieved the transfer letter on the 4th October 2016 then I started winding up at Labour, on the 12 October 2016.
“I went to report at Gender Affairs, to the Director. During the introductory discussion then the Director indicated issues which in her view would adversely impact on my performance and progression, including the issue of diploma”. She said that at the time the PS had just been given a qualification waiver allowing Diploma holders to progress beyond D3. The waiver was not applicable to Gender Affairs and Occupational Safety and Health Department because entry level is strictly Degree.
It was only applicable to Labour, Immigration and Civil and National Registration (Omang).
“She returned me saying that she wants to talk to the PS. I made a written confirmation that I was returned and in an exchange of correspondence they indicated that I did not have proof of return”. She later challenged the administrative decision to transfer her and the court ruled in her favour on 24th January 2019 and now occupies her original position as Principal Industrial Relations II, in the Department of Labour and Social Security. Koorapetse wanted minister Mabeo to say if he is aware that this employee has not been allocated work for 18 months following the transfer dispute and that she has been paid up to nearly half a million for two years, “that is the total of around P498 000 but without work”?.
Mabeo said the officer could not be allocated work in the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development as she was substantively an employee of the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The minister did not deny that the officer was not given work. He said the fact that she has been reinstated but even up to now she is not being given work is something that is “honestly appalling”. He added, “We cannot keep on paying an officer that is not doing any work, it is unacceptable. That is why I am saying I am going to follow up this matter”.
Mabeo told parliament that, “I spoke to the officer just before I came to Parliament, and she has regrettably confirmed to me that even though she has been reinstated, she is not being given work. “I will be going back to engage the executive at my ministry because this is administrative”.
Koorapetse asked why the Permanent Secretary cannot be surcharged for the loss of money through payment of work not done and the court case costs, to which Mabeo said the provision under which surcharge could be invoked was “deemed irrelevant to this particular case”. Surcharge is provided for in Section 43 of the Public Finance Management Act Cap: 54:01. The circumstances under which the power of surcharge may be exercised are varied, but mainly involve wilful default or negligence pertaining to custody of public finance and property.
But Koorapetse was not done with the Minister. “You know I have several questions coming your way regarding your Permanent Secretary. What is it that you are doing substantively and properly to deal with the Permanent Secretary”? Keorapetse asked Mabeo if he realises that he has a problem with his Permanent Secretary and that there will be many such cases of litigation, which the ministry will lose, “and you are still telling us that it will not be proper to surcharge the Permanent Secretary? Mabeo promised to follow up the matter. “I do agree with you, like I have earlier alluded to. There is no way we can be paying an officer who is just sitting in the office, who is supposed to be providing a service to the people. I fully agree with you, it is very awkward”.
Not only is the Permanent Secretary allegedly bullying staff members to a point where some employees are suffering from strokes, some officers are said to be rendered irrelevant and allegedly transferred to departments where their skills are of no use. However in an interview with Botswana Guardian the PS dismissed the MP’s rantings saying he was misiformed by some employees who just don’t want to work.