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Some time ago we reported on the shady goings-on at Pikitup, and mentioned that the entity’s board had decided to institute disciplinary proceedings against its MD Amanda Nair. Nair had been involved in several controversies including an irregular R260-million tender awarded to a company which had previous negative findings against it in a forensic investigation. When we wrote to Nair in June 2013 asking for clarity on the allegations, we never received any response.

The board has finally decided to let Nair go. In a statement issued last Friday, the board said this was in the best interests of the company.

Nair has featured regularly in industrial action by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu). The union embarked on 36 days of unprotected and illegal labour action between November 2015 and April 2016. Waste was left standing on pavements for weeks while the workers protested, among other matters, against Nair’s alleged nepotism and corruption.

Following allegations made by Samwu against Nair, said the board in its statement, an independent forensic investigation into these allegations was completed at the end of June. Nair was suspended, on full pay, at the beginning of July at the same time that charges were filed against her.

“On 29 June 2016 Ms Nair was provided with the forensic report and draft charges. On 5 July 2016 final charges, comprising eight charges related to recruitment and remuneration of employees and three charges related to procurement, were served.”

The same allegations made by Samwu against Nair were also reported to the Public Protector, and an investigation is ongoing, led by Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga. “Ms Nair will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations against her in terms of Section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act,” the board said.

In its rationale for deciding to dismiss Nair, the board said that it is required in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act to protect the revenue base of the company. “It has become clear that the direct and indirect financial implications and the associated time implications of proceeding with a lengthy disciplinary enquiry by an arbitrator, will significantly outweigh the benefits of proceeding with the enquiry.”

The board therefore felt that, rather than carry on paying Nair’s full pay while suspended, it would be more cost effective to sever the ties.

The board also mentioned that Nair had, in contravention of the requirement that she communicate only through the acting MD (Lungile Dhlamini‚ MD of Joburg Water) should she want to get in touch with anyone working at Pikitup, communicated directly with employees. Although Nair denied this, the board said, they had evidence that it was the case, and that the situation was “quite obviously untenable and causes instability in the company.”

There was a breakdown in the trust relationship with Nair, the board said, and that breakdown was irrevocable. The only legal and cost effective means available to the board was to settle the remainder of Nair’s contract.

However, it would also be moving to recover from her “acting allowances and remuneration in excess of upper limits paid to employees without due authorisation. We have also reserved the right to recover any further amounts which may be uncovered, including any amounts that may arise from the recommendations by the Public Protector. Legal action in the civil courts will be instituted against Ms Nair … if need be.”

• Image from Pikitup