Durban - Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu has revealed that civil servants on precautionary suspension cost the public service a whopping R27 million over three financial years.
Mchunu said up to 45 government employees were on precautionary suspension. He made these revelations in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Leon Schreiber, who asked about employees on suspension in national and provincial governments.
Schreiber also inquired about the average length of time each employee had been on suspension as well as the total breakdown of money spent by the state, monthly and annually, on suspended workers.
According to Mchunu, precautionary suspensions had cost the state R26m in the current financial year, R1.3m in the previous year and R73976 between 2017/2018.
Up to 29 employees had been placed on suspension in national departments as of June 30, and 16 employees in provincial governments, with seven being recorded in the Western Cape, four in the Eastern Cape, two each in KwaZulu-Natal and North West and one in Gauteng.
The average length of the precautionary suspension was two months among staff in national government while in the provinces it ranged between two and eight months.
Mchunu did not provide a breakdown of suspended officials according to the various departments.
Schreiber said the amount spent on suspended employees was shocking especially if one divided the amount by the number of employees.
He said of more concern was the time wasted in hauling the officials before disciplinary hearings. “It shows a breakdown in the ability to manage and take people for disciplinary action. It (disciplinary action) must be handled with utmost urgency,” Schreiber said.
Meanwhile, the Personnel and Salary (Persal) system showed that the vacancy rate in the public sector was 9.34% between April and June this year.
Mchunu revealed that almost 1.1 million posts had been filled while there were 123 843 vacant posts in national and provincial departments and state-owned entities.
This excluded the SANDF and the State Security Agency, which did not use the Persal system.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape leads the pack with 20516 vacant posts followed by North West at 10943 and Limpopo at 17386. Positions yet to be filled in the Northern Cape stand at 13.85% and in the Western Cape 12.18%.
Provinces with the lowest percentage of vacant posts are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State. Gauteng has 15997 vacancies (8.86%), KwaZulu-Natal 17145 (8.31%), and Free State 3830 (5.72%).
In national government, the Department of Social Development has the highest number of vacancies.
Schreiber said it was concerning that the vacancy rate had gone up in recent years. He maintained he would send follow-up questions to demand a breakdown at the salary level of the vacant posts. “We call for a comprehensive study in the shaping of government. We need to turn it around. It is time we cut the fat at the top,” he said.