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R1.5m in overtime paid to 4 officials

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Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism paid R1.8 million in overtime to employees in just one financial year - with one official paid more than R458 000.

This has emerged in a response by MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu to a parliamentary question from the DA, in which the party asked for a detailed breakdown of overtime payments made in the 2011/12 financial year.

More than 80 percent of the total overtime amount was spent on four employees, according to the parliamentary response. The four, whose positions have not been revealed, are all on the level 4 salary grade and were paid a combined R1.5m in overtime.

The employees are listed as:

ZM Ninela (R458 457);

JC Mthethwa (R385 000);

SN Biyela (R285 943); and

SM Mabika (R380 840).

In one instance Ninela is said to have worked 664.64 hours in overtime in just two months (April and May 2011), earning R92 245. This equates to about 11 hours a day in overtime for seven days a week over the two months – or almost 17 hours each day for a five-day work week over two months.

Given an eight-hour workday, working 17 hours overtime would require a 25-hour day.

Mthethwa is said to have worked 596 hours of overtime in the same two-month period, paying R82 749.

In his response, dated November last year, Mabuyakhulu defends the payments, saying they are in accordance with the overtime policy.

“Further… there are units within the department that will have more overtime work because of a number of reasons. These include the fact that at the beginning of the current administration and in line with belt-tightening measures, there was a moratorium on the filling of certain posts,” he said.

‘Sensitive’

Mabuyakhulu said another reason for overtime work was the “sensitive and specialised” nature of functions performed by those officials.

“This is dictated by the nature of the terrain wherein they work which renders it impossible to strictly apply the policy without undermining the function they have to perform,” he said.

But for all the other “general circumstances” the department adhered to overtime policy by ensuring that all overtime work was approved, and that overtime work remuneration did not exceed 30 percent of an employee’s salary.

But the DA rejected the MEC’s explanations, saying the more likely reason for the high overtime bill was that the overtime policy was not properly monitored.

DA MPL Johann Krog asked how it was possible that one employee could work as many as 664 hours in just two months.

Krog believes some employees now regard the department as their “cash cow” and that the possible abuses of overtime should be investigated.

“The money wasted on overtime could have been used to fill vacant posts – a long-term solution that the department should have sought,” he said. “In the event that any employee has violated the overtime policy we expect immediate dismissal.”

Department spokesman, Bheko Madlala, said yesterday that when the DA raised the matter of the overtime policy the department had provided a detailed explanation of how it applied the policy as well as the spreadsheet of employees who had benefited.

“However, it is disappointing that the DA has culled out a few cases in the detailed answer in order to portray the department as having not followed stringent controls to both monitor and apply the policy,” Madlala said.

“For the record, it is important to note the Department of Economic Development and Tourism has a staff complement of more than 350 permanent employees excluding those on contract as well as independent contractors.

“Yet, for the period under review an average of 12 employees per month worked overtime in the department. It is odd to note that the DA did not share this with the media when these figures were available.”

bheki.mbanjwa@inl.co.za

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