An external legal team has now singled out 28 parliament workers who, due to their alleged mismanagement and negligence, are believed to have contributed to last year’s devastating fire breaking out at parliament.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo says disciplinary action will be taken against 13 of these parliament workers. Nine of them have already been provisionally suspended due to the serious nature of the allegations.
However, these senior officials have been suspended with full pay and benefits.
Mothapo says this decision takes into account their senior positions and the possible influence they can have on their colleagues within parliament.
“This suspension, according to the parliament, is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the institution and for ensuring an impartial process. The decision was made to protect all parties involved and is only applicable in situations where the continued presence of these individuals may hinder the disciplinary preparation or possibly sway witnesses.”
Mothapo says the 28 parliamentary workers who are implicated received notice of the charges being considered from 20 October and were given a chance to answer or comment on them.
A total of 26 employees have since responded. However, one failed to respond while another was hospitalized during the period. He has since indicated that he is prepared to respond to the allegations.
According to Mothapo, some of the employees offered satisfactory justifications for their actions and have since been exonerated. As regards these employees, Parliament is now considering alternative measures such as professional development or additional training to address any identified skills gaps.
“However, others did not provide sufficient explanations,” says Mothapo, referring to the 13 parliament workers who received notices. “Parliament is therefore organizing disciplinary hearings for these staff members. The staff members will soon be notified of the specific charges they face.”
External legal experts were appointed to handle the disciplinary hearings. They will guarantee impartiality and eliminate any suspicion of bias, says Mothapo.
RNews earlier reported on the various security breaches that presumably led to the devastating fire on 2 January 2022 at the parliament.
An internal investigation by a private forensic investigator revealed nearly two years after the fire that the fire could have been prevented if the police officer who had to monitor the security cameras had not been “fast asleep” while the arsonist was over the fence got up and wandered around the parliamentary complex unseen for hours.
This fence was supposed to be upgraded in 2004. It never happened.
The fire (which caused major damage to the National Assembly building and old Volksraad hall) could also have been prevented if the parliamentary protection services had not been switched off at night, at weekends or on public holidays.
Things could also have turned out very differently if the parliament at that stage had a permanent head of security, appointed only qualified employees and complied with the basic safety standards and fire regulations.