Report on Bitou Disciplinary Actions

Dear Members,

The Plett Ratepayers’ Association served a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) on Bitou for information on disciplinary actions last August to ensure accountability within Bitou Municipality.

Although we still have not received all the information we requested, we have enough to report back on.

Out of roughly 600 employees, about 60 are on a list awaiting disciplinary action.  Charges include: drunk on the job, fraud, theft, robbery, kidnapping, absenteeism, insubordination,  bullying,  etc.

The long-standing issues of poor management and the seemingly unending list of disciplinary cases has a cost, not only in terms of lost work output but lack of  recovery, which is an essential part of accountability and consequence management.  If fraud is discovered and they get caught, then the system demands that it is paid back.

In the last couple years, from what we can glean, Bitou has spent R2.5 million on employees put on suspension with full pay awaiting their hearing.  Add to that the cost of lost work time, the cost of fraudulent actions and theft, the cost of unlawful dismissals, and golden handshakes, and it runs into tens of millions.

I met with Acting Municipal Manager Links recently and he assured me it is his intent to work through the disciplinary matters as a priority to stabilize his management team, but it is a difficult process due to SA’s onerous labour laws.

Employees are dismissed, allowed to appeal the decisions, and if successful, are reinstated into their same jobs.

Employees are suspended on full pay, wait months for a disciplinary hearing, then resign on the day of the hearing to avoid the sanction on their record, while having earned their salary for the whole period.

Workers are hired with a probationary period – but you have to be on top of it.  Managers must take that aspect of their job very seriously.  And any misstep must be fateful.

You would think with this labour regime, HR would be super sensitive and selective in who they employ for the first time.  But it will take years of natural attrition to achieve that.

We have asked the municipality how much they have recovered in fraud from employees, and how much they have written-off as unrecoverable.  We expect there has been limited to no recovery, but will let you know if we receive an amount.

The lack of  leadership and management disciplines, poor hiring and selection processes due in no small measure to political interference, coupled with a shocking history of not holding people accountable, all results in an organisation fraught with waste, inefficiency and fraud.  Worst of all, it adversely affects those who want to work hard and develop their careers.

It is undoubtedly not a problem endemic to only Bitou, but is a national problem created by its own labour laws and tolerance.  But with competent and capable leaders and management it could possibly be controlled better.

Kind regards,
Steve Pattinson