Durban - KwaZulu-Natal government employees who resigned from their posts during the past financial year continued to receive salaries in error - to the tune of more than R77 million.

Of the fortune paid to these former employees who resigned between April, 2011 and April, 2012, R18.6m has been recouped.

This was revealed by KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize in a parliamentary reply to the DA’s George Mari.

The worst offenders were the education and health departments which had mistakenly paid former employees R61m and R13m.

On Sunday, Mkhize’s spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said recouping the money was a constant “work in progress” and that it was steadily being repaid.

Those who had received the money would not be prosecuted, as they had been at the receiving end of an administrative error. Even those who knew they had been wrongly paid and said nothing would not have to face the law.

Although he did not have a figure, he estimated that more than R20m, “maybe even more than R30m”, had been recouped.

“The bulk of employees who were overpaid are from the department of education. Some were temporary teachers, some retired.”

With the high number of people who left a monthly-paid position, because of retirement, resignation, end of contracts or even death, the system did not always update speedily, he said.

Some employees immediately questioned why they had received payment while others, unsure why they were paid, assumed it was money still owed to them. Some of the amounts were for as little as R150, he said. “We are working with the auditor-general and internal auditors to get the money back.”

Mari said that service in the education and health portfolios was severely challenged and questioned staff competency.

The departments that did not overpay officials were: community safety and liaison; economic development and tourism; and the royal household. Other offenders were:

- Human settlements (R690 000)

- Social development ( R420 000)

- Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (R412 000)

- Transport (R339 000)

Mari also reflected on how the money could have been spent, adding that it equalled:

- The health department’s annual subsidy to McCord Hospital - “a margin of life and death for some of our province’s people”;

- The amount required to build 916 homes at the government subsidy of R84 000 a home; and

- The amount required to install 85 new early childhood development learning units with toilets, play equipment and fencing.

“Every bit counts… Excuses about budget constraints simply do not hold water if funds are disappearing into a black hole,” he said.

In the official reply, the premier’s office said procedures to recover the debt included arranging instalments with officials, attaching their pension funds, and claiming from the officials’ new departments if they transferred. Other means would be transferring the matter to the state attorney to pursue legal action, and attaching leave benefits of the relevant officials.

Mari said there needed to be a deadline for erring departments to have collected and returned the money.

The Mercury