Denel Falls Under Labour Court's Spotlight after "Whistle-blower" is Suspended
Lindiz van Zilla
A senior employee of arms manufacturer Denel has turned to the Labour Court and the "whistle blower's" act after he was suspended for reporting serious irregularities at the company's Swartklip plant.
Safety manager Keith Grieve alleged in court papers that "preferential treatment" was given to relatives and acquaintances of employees, and cited the case of the general manager's secretary who undertook an all-expenses-paid trip to the United States.
According to Grieve, the 10-day trip was ostensibly to recover certain Swartklip stock, but the woman allegedly spent six of the 10 days visiting a friend in Miami and stopping over at Disneyland in Florida. Grieve alleged the R40 000 overseas trip was entirely paid for by Denel and upon her return the personal assistant also claimed a further R11 500 in expenses.
Contracts for work to be carried out at Denel were also allegedly awarded to relatives of employees without a proper tendering process, he claimed.
Grieve further alleged that when the factory engineer queried the quality of the work carried out "his function of managing civil works was taken away from him".
Grieve said: "I am aware that the factory engineer had numerous complaints regarding work not of a satisfactory standard, in particular that electrical fittings were not of a satisfactory standard and that certain works were not finished."
Grieve reported these suspicions to two senior Denel officials on November 14 and 15, but five days later was suspended from his duties with immediate effect pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.
Grieve now contends that the disclosures were made in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000, designed to offer protection to employees who "ratted" on criminal or irregular practices within their companies.
"I stand to achieve no personal benefit from having made these disclosures and they were made in good faith," he said.
"The ongoing irregularities are of a serious nature involving the misuse of the funds of a public entity," Grieve said.
"The disclosure of this information is most certainly in the public interest."
Grieve claims that his disciplinary hearing, due to start today, is "a fait accompli and my employment will be terminated as a result thereof".
A copy of the letter in which Grieve is informed of his disciplinary hearing states that he faces charges of misconduct relating to "abuse of company facilities in that you repeatedly and extensively visited pornographic sites on the internet through the company's computer systems".
Charges of racism have also been levelled at Grieve. But in a letter sent to Denel management by legal firm Malcolm, Lyons and Brivik, acting for Grieve, it is contended that the disciplinary action was instituted as a direct response to "disclosures that are protected in terms of the Act".
With acknowledgements to Lindiz van Zilla and the Cape Times.