NEWSFLASH: Senior Tshwane metro police officer suspended

Senior Tshwane metro police officer Trish Armstrong. Photo: Facebook

A senior Tshwane metro police officer has been suspended on two charges of policy violations.

Johanna Etresia (“Trish”) Armstrong confirmed her suspension to Rekord on Thursday.

According to a reliable source, she was served on Tuesday with a suspension letter valid for three months with full pay.

The Tshwane metro was tight-lipped about the suspension and would not give more information.

City manager Moeketsi Mosala said it was not in the character of Tshwane to discuss employees with the media despite this being a matter of public interest.

“Internal processes are currently being followed. As result, I am therefore not in the position to confirm or deny the suspension at this stage. Once the full internal processes have been exhausted, the city will release a statement.”

This comes weeks after Mosola announced he had received a 2014 forensic report on Armstrong’s alleged possession of fraudulent qualifications.

MMC for community safety Derrick Kissundooth previously said the report had been sent to Mosola in light of questions on whether its recommendations were implemented.

The forensic report was compiled after an investigation by the city’s group audit and risk department in 2014.

A copy of this report is in possession of Rekord.

Mosola said he was studying the document. He could on Wednesday not provide more information regarding the forensic report he studied or on the City’s decision on the matter.

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Armstrong was suspended and ultimately dismissed from the Tshwane metro police department (TMPD) in 2015 after an investigation by the TMPD found she was in possession of fraudulent qualifications.

She appealed against the dismissal in the Labour Court, which set aside the sanction.

In April 2016 the South African Local Government Bargaining Council found that the dismissal of Armstrong was both substantively and procedurally unfair.

The City of Tshwane was ordered to reinstate Armstrong on the same terms and conditions prior to her dismissal. The City of Tshwane was also ordered to pay R441 840.00 (ten months salary) to Armstrong.

“At the time of her suspension and subsequent dismissal on June 3, 2015, Armstrong was employed as director: research and resource development, said Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba in a statement.

“Upon her reinstatement to the TMPD on May 1, 2016, she was redeployed to the position of director: tactical police operations.”

Background:

In 2013, Armstrong applied online for a position of director within the department.

This required her to be a metro police officer, police officer or traffic officer.

The report in Rekord’s possession found that she used a fraudulent metro police diploma to register with the transport department as a traffic officer.

Armstrong’s qualifications were investigated in 2014 to establish the validity of information mentioned on Armstrong’s CV, also with regard to her traffic diploma and certificate of registration as an authorised traffic officer.

According to the report, Tshilidzi Tsedu, a shop steward for the SA Municipal Workers Union and acting director at the metro police, stated that Armstrong received her traffic diploma at Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Training Academy on May 25, 2006 and an SAPS certificate on July 31, 2004.

Tsedu told investigators in 2014 that the traffic diploma was suspicious because Armstrong was employed in a civilian post as the commander at legal services by Tshwane from May 2006 until the end of September that year.

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According to the report, the validity of the EMPDTA diploma Armstrong submitted during the application and recruitment process is questionable.

The report states that EMPDTA was not registered or accredited as a Traffic Training Academy in 2006.

Yet, the date on the diploma issued to Armstrong was 25 May 2006.

The EMPDTA was only registered and approved by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) in December 2007.

The RTMC clearly stated in its letter that no diploma certificates could be issued by the EMPDTA before November 2007.

Rekord is in possession of the letter signed by Mr. RJ Rakgoale, CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) dated 12 December 2007.

The letter was in response to the application for registration of the traffic academy which the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Training Academy applied for on 05 June 2007.

This letter confirmed that the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Training Academy (EMPDTA) was only accredited and granted the status of an approved Traffic Training Centre by the Road Traffic Management Corporation in 2007.

It further stated that the academy could run final examinations at the end of November 2007.

The approval was with the understanding that no diploma certificate would be issued before the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department Training Academy had been granted the status of an approved Traffic Training Centre by the Cabinet minister concerned.

The certificate is awarded to members trained in management and leadership, the regulatory framework for metropolitan police, the Road Traffic Act, traffic policing, crime prevention, administrative procedures, health, fitness, and street survival.

Rekord is in possession of this certificate. The certificate was issued to T. Armstrong, Trish being a nickname and not the first name of Johanna Etresia (“Trish”) Armstrong.

The certificate was signed by and issued by Ugeshni Naidoo, Deputy Chief of Police at the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department. Naidoo was the Director of Training at the EMPDTA from the 1st of July 2005 until 30 July 2013.

Rekord sent a media inquiry to both the EMPDTA and EMPD regarding the issuing of this certificate in 2006 despite the academy only being registered and accredited in 2007.

According to the spokesperson of the EMPD, Chief Superintendent Wilfred Kgasago’s initial response, Armstrong underwent training as prescribed by Regulation 11 of the Regulations for Municipal Police Service under the auspices of the SA Police Service in 2006.

“She successfully completed the bridging course in July 2006 that qualified her to be a fully-fledged metro police officer and duly awarded a certificate of competency. As procedure would require, Director Armstrong applied for her Infrastructure Number with Department of Transport. The latter declined her application based purely on the fact that Infrastructure Number can only be issued if the application is via an accredited Metro Police Department Training Academy and not from SAPS. This led to the National Chiefs’ Forum requesting EMPDTA to assist in the issuing of MPO Diploma in 2008, but backdating it to 2006 when the bridging course was done.

As a result of accreditation being accorded to EMPDTA in November 2007, Director Armstrong was eventually issued with her infrastructure number in 2008.

“The inconsequential discrepancy pointed out that the EMPDTA could not have issued her with Metro Police Diploma dated 2006 as the EMPDTA was not accredited then, was a mere technical one as the backdating to 2006 (from 2008) was based on the fact that she had in effect qualified to be a fully-fledged metro police officer in 2006 following the SAPS bridging courses. Construing that because the EMPDTA was only accredited in 2007 and thus ‘disqualifies’ Director Armstrong as a metro police officer before then would be fallacious. Additionally, following three sittings (Oct’15, Jan’16 and Mar’16) of the Labour Court in this matter, Director Armstrong qualification (MPO Diploma) was ruled to be legal. The ruling was made on 27 April 2016. Hence she is currently back in the employ of TMPD as a Director.”

Naidoo was suspended shortly after Rekord‘s media inquiry two weeks ago. Kgasago confirmed on Wednesday evening that Naidoo had been placed on precautionary suspension. He could however not provide more information regarding the reasons for her suspension.

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According to a reliable source close to the investigation, Naidoo had been placed on precautionary suspension on 7 June 2017 pending an internal investigation into the EMPDTA’s  role of issuing the diploma to Armstong in 2006.

Naidoo confirmed the suspension on Thursday.

Armstrong had a letter, from the SA Police Service, stating she completed all training as prescribed by municipal police service regulations.

The letter was signed by assistant commissioner in-service training Lt-Gen Lesetja Joel Mothiba in July 2015.

“I was an assistant commissioner responsible in-service training at the Division Human Resources Development between 2004-09-01 and 2010-09-30. During the period 2004 to 2012, I was also a member of the forum consisting of the Chief of Police of the then Metropolitan Services, Members from the South African Police Services,

“Members of the IPID and the Department of Transport. This forum was known as the National Chiefs Forum and the National Coordinating Forum. The training presented as attended by Armstrong, was presented in line with this principle. The diploma which was awarded to the Armstong by the EMPDTA is a valid and lawful diploma. Armstrong did not obtain the diploma and certificate in a fraudulent or incorrect manner.”

According to Mothiba the same certificates and diplomas were issued to other attendees of the course and to the best of my recollection it was awarded to more than 4000 Metro Police Officers throughout the country.

He added that the course was not accredited with the South African Qualifications Authority as there was a transitional period for the courses to be registered with the South African Qualifications Authority.

According to Mothiba the course was recognised by the Department of Transport as well as the South African Police Services.

Armstrong also claimed she was a metro police chief in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which was found by the report to be untrue.

According to the report, investigators established that she was appointed a project director at the municipality until her contract was terminated on February 6, 2012.

The report concluded that the information constituted misrepresentation on Armstrong’s part.

The report found that Armstrong’s contract did not expire as indicated in the CV, but was terminated.

The report stated: “Armstrong’s conduct resulted into misrepresentation.”

The report recommended that legal action be taken against Armstrong and that an amount of R1.2 million she drew from the municipality between May 6, 2013 until September 30, 2014 be recouped.

According to the report, disciplinary action should have been taken against Armstrong for misrepresenting herself to the city during the recruitment process.

According to the report, former chief of police Steven Ngobeni should have informed the Department of Transport in writing to deregister Armstrong as a traffic officer.

Ngobeni needed to have initiated steps to deregister Armstrong because she had “registered as a traffic officer at the department with a fraudulent diploma”.

The report further found that Armstrong was not in possession of an honours degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.

She merely did a short course of six months in crime prevention management.

Armstrong did not obtain an LLB degree, and the forensic services could not confirm her registration as an advocate, as she claimed to the city and fellow colleagues.

The report further stated: “Armstrong also could not supply forensic services with a certificate proving that she is admitted as an advocate.”

In April 2016 the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) found that the dismissal of Armstrong was both substantively and procedurally unfair.

SALGBC stated in the Award that Armstrong cannot be held accountable for the fact that the issuing of institutions wrongly cited the periods of training on her qualifications.  It found that her qualifications were valid and appropriately conferred.

It argued that the City of Tshwane could not prove that the qualifications were indeed irregular as alleged.

According to the Award, the City of Tshwane could not produce any evidence to substantiate the charges levelled against Armstrong.

Armstrong admitted that she wrote on her application form that she was an advocate and could not explain why this occurred but submitted that she did not put this on her job application and had nothing to gain by doing so.

SALGBC found that although this was strange and potentially concerning act on the part of Armstrong, the act itself can hardly be viewed as fraudulent to the extent that it induced the City of Tshwane to employ Armstrong or severe the trust in the employment relationship.

It also found that Armstrong’s explanation of her appointment and ending of contract with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality credible and consistent with the details of her job application,

The City of Tshwane was ordered to reinstate Armstrong on the same terms and conditions prior to her dismissal. The City of Tshwane was also ordered to pay R441 840.00 (ten months salary) to Armstrong.

Click here for a timeline of the places Armstrong worked.

Do you have more information about the story? Please send us an email to editorial@rekord.co.za or phone us on 083 625 4114.

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  AUTHOR
Corné van Zyl
Deputy group Editor

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