ELRC806-23-24LP
Award  Date:
04 June 2024

AT THE EDUCATION LABOUR RELATIONS COUNCIL (ELRC)
HELD IN LIMPOPO
Case No: ELRC 806-23-24 LP
Date: 04 June 2024

In the matter between:

Letlapa Nelson Tleane Applicant

and

Department of Education, Limpopo Respondent

Applicant’s address:


ARBITRATION AWARD

DETAILS OF THE HEARING AND REPRESENTATION.

1) The Applicant referred a dispute in terms of section 186 (2) of the Labour Relations Act no 66 of 1995 (as amended), herein referred to as the “LRA”.

2) The matter was set down as an arbitration process on 31 May 2024, at the corner of Hospital and Hans Van Rensburg Street, Voorwarts Building, Polokwane.


3) The Applicant was in attendance and represented by Ms. Dimpho Lehapana, a candidate attorney of PC Mohale Incorporated Attorneys.

4) The Respondent was also in attendance, and represented by Ms. Portia Modipa, Deputy Manager from the Labour Relations department.

ISSUES TO BE DECIDED.
5) Whether the Applicant committed an unfair labour practice (ULP) by not paying the Applicant his travelling allowance benefit, and if so, what the appropriate relief should be.

BACKGROUND TO THE DISPUTE.

6) The Applicant is based at the District office. His duties involve amongst others, travelling using his own vehicle. The Respondent has a policy in place which the Applicant is aware of and that regulates the payment of official travelling expenses.
7) According to the said policy, and circular 06 of 2023, the Respondent reimburses Applicants for using their own vehicles when performing official duties.

8) The Applicant travelled a distance of 1859 kilometres during the month of May 2023.


9) He was not reimbursed.

10) He therefore declared a dispute in terms of section 186(2) of the LRA seeking payment of the travel allowance benefit.

SURVEY OF EVIDENCE AND ARGUMENT.
APPLICANT’S EVIDENCE.
11) Letlapa Nelson Tleane testified that he submitted his claim dated 24 July 2023 to Mr Shongwana towards the end of July 2024. The transport office received the claim on 02 August 2023.The claim was not honoured. He made enquiries with Shongwana who told him that he had to submit a motivation letter explaining why his claim was submitted late. He emailed a letter to Shongwana on 28 July 2023.

12) He was surprised when he visited the office when Shongwana told him that his office still awaits his explanatory letter. He typed the letter and submitted it on the same day.


13) According to the Departmental Circular 6 dated 30 January 2023, and the Transversal Financial Policy, claims submitted after the expiry of 60 days after the relevant claim month, will no longer be accepted with effect from the date of this circular.


14) The Applicant denied that his claim was submitted after the expiry of 60 days. The receptionist was responsible for the late submission.

RESPONDENT’S EVIDENCE.
15) Johana Sindisa testified that she is a Deputy Director attached to the finance section. The policy provides for the claim to be submitted to the transport section within (7) seven days after the relevant claim month.

16) Thereafter, the transport section will send it to finance Section for a recommendation by her as a Deputy Director, and approval for payment by the District Director.


17) The Applicant’s claim was received by transport section on 02 August 2023. It was thereafter, received by finance section on 07 August 2023. It was not honored because it was not submitted on time.

18) There is no proof that the Applicant submitted his claim to his supervisor on 24 July 2023. If submitted elsewhere, the Applicant had a responsibility of ensuring that it reached the transport section on time. The Applicant was aware that all claims are submitted by claimants to the transport section.


19) The period of 60 days does not apply to the submission of claims. It only applies for purposes of processing payments. Claims must be submitted within 7 days. The finance section does not have delegated powers to deviate from the provisions of the Policy, but the Head of Department can.

20) According to Circular 6 dated 30 January 2023, any explanation for the delay in submitting a claim is no longer applicable or accepted.

ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENTS AND FINDINGS.

21) In my analysis, I only considered the relevant evidence and arguments presented by both parties.

22) The onus was on the Applicant to prove that the Respondent committed an unfair labour practice relating to benefits when it refused to reimburse him for the travel costs he incurred.


23) In terms of section 186(2) (a) of the LRA, “‘Unfair Labour Practice’ means any unfair act or omission that arises between an Respondent and an Applicant involving- an unfair conduct by the Respondent relating to promotion, demotion, probation (excluding disputes about dismissals for reasons relating to probation) or training of an Applicant or relating to provision of benefits to an Applicant.”

24) Although I was not required to determine whether or not a travelling allowance constitutes a benefit as envisaged by section 186 (2) (a) of the LRA, it is safe to mention at this stage that in my view, it is a benefit as contemplated in the said legislation.


25) It is common cause issue that the Applicant’s dispute related to provision of benefits in the form of travelling expenses.

26) In this case, the Applicant’s case is that he submitted his claim on time to Mr Shongwana, his supervisor. The Applicant did not deny that claims are in terms of the set standards and procedures, supposed to be submitted to transport section. In this case, the claim was allegedly submitted to Mr Shongwana who was neither attached to the transport nor the finance section.
27) I agree with the Respondent’s sole witness that the Applicant did not provide evidence that he submitted the claim to his supervisor on 24 July 2023. The only available evidence is a covering form which is dated and signed by the Applicant in a form of a declaration on 24 July 2023 and received by the transport section on 2 August 2023.

28) The determining factors are the Circular 6 of 2023 and the Transversal Finance Policy. The keywords in the Circular and the Policy referred to above are “…claims in excess of 60 days after the relevant claim month, will no longer be accepted..”


29) The claim was received by Transport section; 63 (sixty three) days after the relevant claim month. It was therefore sent out of the prescribed period. There was no reasonable explanation given by the Applicant as to why he could not submit the claim on time.

30) I am not persuaded to agree with the Applicant that he could not submit the claim because he had a problem with his laptop. There was no evidence that the issue of a non-functioning laptop was ever reported to the Respondent. He only mentioned it when required to give an explanation for the delay.


31) Even if it could be accepted that he had such a problem, he should have sought other means of ensuring that the claim was submitted on time. It is mindboggling that he used a computer at Mr Shongwana’s office to type a motivation letter but couldn’t do the same to prepare his claim for timeous submission.

32) In both his motivation letter and the WhatsApp message he sent to Mr Shongwana, the Applicant never mentioned that the delay in submitting a claim was occasioned by Mr Shongwana’s office. The Applicant, had in fact agreed in both his letter and the message he sent to Shongwana, that the claim was submitted late.
33) It was clear from the reasons provided above, that Shongwana and a non-functioning laptop had nothing to with the late submission of the claim.

34) I agree with the Respondent that the claim was submitted out of time and that the Applicant had a responsibility to ensure the timeous submission of his claim.


35) The question is whether despite having been so submitted, the Respondent had a duty to honor the claim or not.

36) The policies referred to above are clear: “claims submitted after the expiry of 60 days after the relevant claim month, will be forfeited”. According to Circular 6 of 2023, motivation for payments of fuel claims in excess of 60 days after the relevant claim month will no longer be accepted.


37) According to the provisions referred to above, the Applicant had an option of choosing between forfeiting a claim by not submitting it on time; or securing payment by submitting it on time. The Applicant chose the former.

38) My finding is that the Applicant failed to discharge the onus of proving on a balance of probabilities that the Respondent had committed an unfair labour practice relating to benefits as envisaged by section 186(2)(a) of the LRA. The Applicant is not entitled to the relief he seeks.

AWARD.

39) The Applicant’s dispute referral to the Council is dismissed.

MAHASHA TM
ELRC PANELIST



ADDRESS
261 West Avenue
Centurion
Gauteng 
0046
BUSINESS HOURS
8h00 to 16h30 - Monday to Friday
Copyright Education Labour Relations Council. 2021. All Rights Reserved. Created by 
ThinkTank Creative