DA slams over R17m 'wasted' on lengthy suspensions of public servants
Provincial and national government departments have wasted more than R17 million paying salaries of suspended officials, DA public service and administration spokesperson Michele Clarke said on Monday.
"Many of the suspensions are of teachers that are being accused of sexual assault and harassment of, or improper relationships with learners in their care," Clarke said.
Clarke said the DA will not stand for this blatant abuse of taxpayers’ money – with more than 280 officials on lengthy suspensions – and called on the Department of Public Service and Administration to put in place measures to ensure that suspensions do not exceed the prescribed time frame of 60 days for completion.
In reply to a DA parliamentary question, which asked for details of public servants who have been on suspension for more than 60 days with full pay, Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu disclosed that taxpayers have been paying the salaries of over 230 employees on lengthy suspensions in provincial departments and 50 in national departments.
"The reasons for suspension range from allegations of corruption, bribery, endangering the lives of colleagues, kidnapping and gender-based violence."
Some of the notable examples of teachers that are being accused of sexual assault and harassment of, or improper relationships with, pupils include:
* An educator in the Northern Cape Education department, suspended on an allegation of sexually harassing a learner, has cost the Department R 303 374.50 as his suspension drags on for more than 420 days;
* In the Eastern Cape Education Department, a principal has been on suspension for a year and eighth months already. His suspension follows allegations of sexual harassment made by a learner, and his continued suspension has cost the department R880 887;
* The director in the Office of the Premier in KwaZulu-Natal has been suspended with pay for 11 months and 23 days while being investigated for theft – the suspension has cost taxpayers R 1 002 857.08
"This continued payment of the salaries of suspended individuals due to drawn out disciplinary processes is unacceptable and unsustainable, especially given the country’s lacklustre economic performance and the already bloated public sector wage bill.
The measures the DA suggested be put in place to ensure that suspensions do not exceed the prescribed time frame of 60 days for completion include:
* A digitised system to obtain updated and reliable information from departments on their disciplinary cases. The paper-based system currently in place just does not work.
* Developing an audit methodology in order to audit cases and assist in their finalisation.
"We cannot afford to waste large sums of money paying civil servants for sitting at home. It is in the interest of all that innocent employees are provided with a speedy hearing so that they can clear their names and return to work, while those who are guilty should be removed from their positions, and the vacancies filled with all due haste," said Clarke.IOL