Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART
Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART

National government departments spent R22m on suspensions of employees in the three months from July to September last year, a sharp increase from the R8m spent in the previous three months.

Employees on suspension don’t come to work but receive their full pay until the finalisation of their disciplinary cases, which can take years at huge cost to the state.

The amount spent on suspensions is likely to be much higher as there is underreporting by departments on suspensions and disciplinary cases, the members of parliament’s public service and administration committee heard from departmental officials on Wednesday.

Departments have also failed to comply with the ruling that disciplinary cases be finalised within 90 days and not to have suspensions longer than 60 days.

The worst offending department in the three months to end-September 2019 was the department of agriculture forestry and fisheries, which spent about R10m in this period on suspensions.

In the three months to end-September, national departments had reported 1,283 misconduct cases and had 559 cases pending; while provincial departments had 2,469 and 166 cases, respectively. KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of misconduct cases at 596. The KwaZulu-Natal department of education was responsible for R42m of the total of R61m spent by all provinces on suspensions during the period under review. Provinces incurred R80m on suspension cases in the period April 1 to June 30.

The department of public service and administration deputy director-general Geeva Pillay said in a presentation to the committee that the department was working with the Treasury in an effort to use the government payroll system Persal for reporting and capturing disciplinary cases and suspensions so that it can gather accurate data. Currently the information is consolidated manually in a paper-based system.

As from April 1, a new unit will be established in the department that will enhance its ability to intervene where there are systemic blockages with regard to disciplinary matters, among other things. “This gives the minister the power to intervene. We did not have it previously,” Pillay said.

He noted that among the challenges are that government departments are not meeting the time frames for finalising cases, which resulted in long suspensions.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za

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