Tighten laws governing trade unions, minister urged
Labour federations tell Nedlac summit of good governance failure
Trade unions have called on the government to hold their organisations accountable amid claims and proof of rampant corruption and maladministration in some unions.
The advent of "business unionism", in which union leaders use their positions for financial gain, has left unions such as the South African Municipal Workers Union in tatters. And workers have been the biggest losers.
Speaking at the 22nd annual summit of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in Ekurhuleni on Friday, National Council of Trade Unions president Joseph Maqhekeni, appealed to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to tighten the laws governing union formations.
"Deregistration is not enough. You must hold us accountable as union leaders," he said.
The labour registrar has the powers to deregister a trade union if it is found to be operating outside the guidelines detailed in the Labour Relations Act. These include the regular submission of audited financial statements. However, union leaders who are found guilty or suspected of abusing union funds are rarely prosecuted.
During his address, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalinthsali wondered about the role of Nedlac’s social partners if the impression created in the country was that "it pays to commit crime".
The summit was held under the theme "restoring dignity by combating corruption through good governance".
The Cosatu leader also expressed the need for action on union complicity in corruption.
"We have seen lack of good governance in the labour constituency. If all of us can claim not to be innocent of lack of good governance, then why are we here?"
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the keynote speaker, said the country was at a "reflection point" where a collective decision had to be made by all in society on whether corrupt practices would be allowed to continue unchecked.
"The time has arrived for the nation to focus on where and how corruption manifests itself," he said.
Meanwhile Nedlac, the body that enhances social dialogue and consensus on policy and legislation, will have to answer to its own governance failures in Parliament on Wednesday.
The council’s director and senior management will appear before the portfolio committee on labour to discuss its audit outcomes along with other agencies of the department following a briefing by the auditor-general.
Nedlac has not been compliant with provisions in the Public Finance Management Act, according to the auditor-general’s report. Nedlac incurred more than R4m in irregular and wasteful expenditure, running up a deficit budget.
Further details reveal that Nedlac has awarded contracts to bidders that did not score the highest points as per the legislated evaluation process.
"Effective steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure amounting to R3,626,303 ... and effective steps were not taken to prevent fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R444,714," read the report.
Nedlac has yet to act on the independent forensic report that found its former executive director, Herbert Mkhize, and chief financial officer Umesh Dulabh had fraudulently and illegally spent close to R2m in Nedlac funds.