The Department of Public Service and Administration says that there are currently 305 government officials sitting at home on suspension with full pay, costing taxpayers R131 million.
Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, acting minister of public service and administration, Thulas Nxesi, outlined which sectors had the most public servants suspended, and how much they cost the fiscus.
Currently, there are 79 precautionary suspension cases received in national departments, including, but not limited to, those in the National Correctional Services, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Public Service and Administration itself, and the Department of the Presidency.
All 79 national cases stack up to cost the country R40.2 million, with some of the highest contributors being those within:
- The Department of Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation at R2.5 million;
- A top-ranking official in Home Affairs with a standalone salary of R956,000 and;
- One case in the Public Works and Infrastructure department with a salary of R3.9 million.
Statistics for provincial suspensions differ slightly with a higher number of cases. However, salaries for such servants do not reach the same level. According to the minister, all 226 cases of suspension in provincial departments cost the government R90.7 million.
Out of the total number of overall suspensions, 57 of them are members of senior positions.
Officials might be suspended for a number of reasons other than their guilt in a crime, but the suspension can lead to dismissal.
The number of public servants who have been dismissed from employment has increased, especially over the last year. Between 2019 to 2020, 2,525 public servants were dismissed; for the year 2020 to 2021, slightly fewer at 2,295; and most recently, in 2021/22, over 3,000.
Reasons for dismissal extend from alcohol abuse to falsifying documents or blatant insubordination. Most dismissals, however – 2,424 on record – do not indicate the reason for the exit.
Why suspension with full pay?
Under South African law, employees cannot be suspended without pay; however, investigations into the conduct that led to the suspension, as well as the subsequent disciplinary hearing, are meant to take place quickly.
Speaking to ENCA, Tahir Maepa from the Public Service Commercial Union of South Africa unpacked the problem of public servants sitting at home with pay and not contributing to work while suspended.
He said that some departments are using suspensions as punitive measures as well as to aid in corruption. Maepa added that major issues arise when the disciplinary hearing is stalled, and people are paid for months while not working.
To combat this, he said people in positions of power to suspend employees should themselves be held accountable for not fast-tracking disciplinary hearings – this would disable people from sitting for months on end earning a high salary without working.
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