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Senior metro police officer facing fraud probe

2014-09-05 05:00

Johannesburg - Senior Tshwane metro police officer, Johanna "Trish" Armstrong, who is being investigated for fraud, has been issued with a letter of intention to suspend her, Tshwane metro police said on Thursday.

"She has 48 hours to explain why she should not be suspended and we will take it from there," said Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba.

"When she was served with the letter she was arrogant and said this is nonsense and that she won't stand for that."

Mahamba said the city was investigating Armstrong, the director of research and resource development, for allegedly forging documents to obtain her position, which she has held since May 2013.

"We are aware of those allegations levelled against Trish Armstrong and we are investigating them," he said.

"Once the internal investigation has been concluded we will be in a position to comment further."

Armstrong could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Mahamba said that when Armstrong was given the letter, she was told to bring a representative with when she appeared before management in two days time.

"She said her rep was the provincial commissioner, and she asked how was she supposed to get hold of him in 48 hours. We don't know who she was referring to," he said.

Armstrong, 48, was appointed director of research and resource development at the city in May last year with an annual salary package of R704 650.

According to her job description, she is responsible for managing and overseeing research and development, by-law co-ordination and management, firearm management, employee wellness services, and civilian and internal affairs.

She is accused of forging her traffic diploma and Saps training certificate, apparently a prerequisite to become a metro police officer.

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.

Mahamba declined to divulge further information about the investigation.

Fraudulent qualifications

"We cannot give out details of the investigation at this stage, but we will comment once all procedures are complete, along with the investigation," he said.

Four senior TMPD officials handed Sapa copies of the qualifications and the CV they said Armstrong used to apply for the post.

The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said it would ask for a meeting with city manager Jason Ngobeni to discuss the issue.

Samwu Tshwane chairperson Nkhetheni Muthavhi said the city and metro police had to answer many questions regarding Armstrong's appointment.

"If it is found that indeed her qualifications are fraudulent, then we will call for her immediate suspension.

"As Samwu we will never allow a situation where qualified applicants are undermined for people with no qualifications. If they are not going to take action then we will have to meet in the streets," Muthavhi said.

He added that a metro police director should be someone beyond reproach and called on the city to recoup every cent it had paid Armstrong in salaries.

In her application for the position, Armstrong noted on her CV that she had an honours degree from Wits, a B.luris from the University of Pretoria, a metro police diploma, and was busy with a master's degree at the University of Liverpool.

No recognised police training certificate

On her Facebook page, Armstrong states that she supports ethical policing. In a post from 1 September, she says: "Thank you to all my brothers and sisters in uniform who serve their communities with honour and pride. Have a safe week! Don't pay a bribe. Don't take a bribe."

She 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 Lieutenant General Lesetja Joel Mothiba, who is now the provincial commissioner of Gauteng.

She is said to have completed six modules, including module two, regulatory framework for metropolitan police and module three, road traffic act and traffic policing.

An officer who spoke to Sapa on condition of anonymity said these two modules had never been offered by Saps.

A system search conducted by the Saps human resource development division, using Armstrong's identity number, showed she had no recognised police training certificate.

Questions sent to Gauteng police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila about how Mothiba's signature appeared on the paper were not answered.

Armstrong did not respond to questions sent to her via e-mail on August 29, to an sms on August 30, and to phone calls on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Job history

Armstrong has worked for three metro police departments in the country in the past 12 years.

From July 2009 to 2012, she was with the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan police.

According to an article in the Metro Newspaper on 16 February 2012, her employment contract was terminated due to "material breach of her contract".

The paper reported she was a project director of a team tasked with establishing the metro police in the city.

Municipal spokesperson Kupido Baron told the paper at the time: "The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has terminated the employment contract of the project director of the metro police project team, Ms Trish Armstrong. This is after a material breach of her employment contract occurred."

Baron said the municipality expected the highest ethical standards from its employees.

Armstrong sued her former employer and in September 2012 the Labour Court ordered that the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality pay her R234 000 for unfair dismissal.

From October 2006 to 2009 she was Ekurhuleni metropolitan police department's director of operations in Tembisa. She said her reason for leaving was due to a promotion.

From April 2003 to 2006 she worked for the City of Tshwane as commander of legal services and left the position when she was promoted.

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