DURBAN - A DAMNING forensic report has lifted the lid on the rampant abuse of overtime in the Metro Police and exposed instances where an officer earned a staggering R1.2 million over two years while others claimed for overtime even on their rest days.
The revelations are contained in a forensic investigation report that looked into allegations of wrongdoing in the Metro Police Unit between 2017 and 2019.
However, the report has been described as a “hit job” by some in the unit who said it was being used to undermine the current management by blaming them for matters that occurred before their time.
The investigators looked into allegations of abuse of overtime, the appointment of senior managers, the recruitment of Metro officers and the abuse of council vehicles.
It found that in the years under review the municipality forked out more than R576m on overtime.
The report said that one officer was the biggest beneficiary of overtime, earning R1.2m. “The officer”, said the report, “effectively doubled his salary” due to overtime pay. At the time he was earning R564 000 a year. By law, officials are only allowed 10 hours a week of overtime or 40 hours a month.
It said the SA Local Government Bargaining Council instructs that any municipality that wishes to pay overtime to an employee earning in excess of the threshold of R205 000 a year should apply for an exemption to the divisional bargaining council. But the report said no such permission was sought.
“The officer was interviewed in relation to the overtime to provide operational plans for the time worked and did not provide any such documents,“said the report.
The officer, whose name is known to The Mercury, described the report as dishonest, saying the overtime was earned legitimately. He is among many others that have been flagged by the report for possible overtime fraud.
One officer, said the report, claimed overtime on rest days when he was off duty. Another officer, when pressed by investigators on allegations that he had abused a council vehicle by taking it to a bar and had fraudulently claimed overtime when he was not on duty, told investigators that even when he was at home, he sent WhatsApp messages to his colleagues and that counted as work.
Sources in the unit, however, have questioned the substance and quality of the investigation, alleging that some of the information they put forward was not included in the report.
Officers speaking on condition of anonymity said the report was the outcome of back-stabbing within the unit by certain people who were eyeing senior positions and this report was being used to malign the current managers.
Another senior Metro officer, who asked not to be named, said the unit had made a lot of changes to contain the abuse of overtime. “One of the challenges was that there were no managers in place. They have now been appointed and we have fired many people that had been implicated in the abuse of overtime,” he said.
The Audit Committee has expressed concern that there were still no control measures implemented in order to reduce overtime expenditure despite this being reported a number of times.
The committee has recommended that the City should consider including some aspects of overtime management as part of the Deputy City Managers (DCMs) performance contracts.
“For two consecutive years, the City paid more than R1 billion in overtime and no benefits have been derived from the existence of an Overtime Task Team,” the committee said.
Deputy head of Metro Police Sibonelo Mchunu said the report was deeply flawed, adding that the investigators had to rework it three times and the municipality has been unable to implement it. He said it implicated people in matters that they were not involved in and was equivalent to gossip.
“The report first came out in January; it was taken to be reworked as the municipality could not implement it and it was reworked two more times after that. It has been interdicted twice by individuals that it implicates because it did not give them an opportunity to respond to the allegations.”
Mchunu said that while there has been a proposal to limit the number of hours people worked, it was impossible to implement that, especially with emergency services, as that would mean they should stop working when they reached the limit of their working hours. This could be a dangerous suggestion.
DA councillor Nicole Graham said overtime abuse had cost the City hundreds of millions of rand over the last couple of years. She said there needed to be serious consequences for those who abused overtime, adding that minor sanctions were not enough of a disincentive.
Municipal spokesperson Mandla Nsele said the City was aware of the report. “Please note this is an internal matter between the employer and employee. There is an internal disciplinary process under way in this regard. We ask to be given space to deal with the matter.”