Cape Town - South African taxpayers coughed up R25 million for 167 suspended public servants where some have been sitting at home for nearly three years.
Ideally, precautionary suspensions in national and provincial governments should be for a period not longer than 60 days, but the longest suspended official in departments like the Correctional Services, spent 883 days at home on full pay.
These were the findings in the latest Public Service Commission (PSC) Pulse of the Public Service Bulletin for the third quarter that covered the period from October 1 to December 31, 2022.
The addition included the focus on pre-hearing suspensions for the 2021/2022 financial year and non-payment of suppliers by the departments which showed a bleak picture.
“The scale of the problem needs the government to put robust measures to reduce the pending cost of suspensions to taxpayers.
“In fact, receiving salaries while absent from duty is in violation of the rule of no work no pay. The PSC noted that deep-rooted and systemic corruption does not exist in a vacuum.
“Suspension trends showed that they have flourished due to institutional failures in State systems and accountability as well as failures to achieve visible consequences for corrupt activities. The government needs to make precautionary suspension efforts more transparent and accountable in terms of efficiency (minimising waste) and effectiveness (achievement of the desired outcome),” said Commissioner, Anele Gxoyiya.
About 51 officials from the Department of Correctional Services were on suspension costing more than R5.1m, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) incurred the second highest cost of R2.4m where an official was subjected to a suspension period of 590 days.
The Police Department saw 56 servants being suspended at a cost of R1.4m and the longest suspension was 303 days.
Allegations faced by the officials included misappropriation of funds, fraud and corruption.
Gxoyiya said precautionary suspensions decided on by departments remained active for a long time because reliance was placed on external legal practitioners to conclude disciplinary processes.
Another worrying trend was non-payment of invoices with provinces being the worst owing R5 billion in December 2022 alone and national departments owed R90 million.
The Western Cape owed five suppliers R222 738 making it the least owing province in the country.
The Eastern Cape was the main contributor to the December debt with R2bn followed by Gauteng with R1.6bn, North West was third place owing nearly R400m and the Northern Cape had a R146m debt.
“This means that there were companies who could not pay their employees due to departments failing to meet their contractual obligations.
“Some families had a bleak Christmas. Of great concern is the Limpopo province which did not submit the November 2022 report to the Treasury.
The PSC recommended that Parliament assists in holding departments accountable, especially accounting officers for the failure to meet their statutory obligations in terms of section 38(1) of the PFMA in October 2022,” he said