Johannesburg - The country’s top public servants in national departments have been granted salary increases, taking the bulk of pay for accounting officers in government to above R240 million a year.

Although they will still earn far less than their counterparts in the private sector, the salary increase means that heads of state agencies and directors-general will earn nearly as much as some deputy ministers.

According to the latest salary scales published by Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, directors-general will receive a 5.7 percent increase, meaning that the highest-earning DGs will earn a comprehensive annual pay of R1.7m.

The scales also state that the directors will receive a 6.2 percent increase.

This will bring the total of remuneration on the level of director-general to just over R80m across the 46 national departments, assuming there are no vacancies.

Deputy DGs will earn just above R1.3m, chief directors will be getting just over R1.1m while directors in departments will earn about R964 000.

The salary levels apply to accounting officers and other public servants in government agencies including Statistics SA, Sars, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the SAPS.

Accounting officers in these agencies, which are the statistician-general, the Sars commissioner, the Sassa chief executive and the national police commissioner, are ranked at the level of director-general.

DGs in national departments voluntarily relinquished their 2012/13 bonuses after President Jacob Zuma made a call in 2012 for both the private and public sectors to freeze increases for a year to fight a widening income gap and inequalities.

Their 5.6 percent increase for the same period was deducted from their salaries between April last year and March this year.

The increases for the DGs follow those of ministers and public representatives approved by Zuma this year, which The Sunday Independent calculated to be an overall increase of R54m in the last financial years as it had to be backdated.

This was also followed by salary increases for councillors and public representatives in local government, which was approved by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli.

The pay hikes were estimated to increase their overall pay by at least R90m in the next financial year.

Sisulu’s spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the minister took into account the country’s annual inflation in determining the increases for senior managers in the government.

She had also considered what she described as an increasing public service wage bill when she was appointed to her position in 2012.

According to Mabaya, it would not be necessary to get additional funding for the increases from Treasury – they were included in the budget for the 2014/15 financial year.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) this week called for a moratorium on salary increases for senior managers, ministers and deputy ministers in light of increasing unemployment and a tough economic climate.

Nehawu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said continued salary increases for senior managers and politicians “fly in the face of how they motivated for workers to accept a multi-year agreement on public servants’ wage increases”.

“It is our view that they are already earning ridiculously high salaries. The argument that we need to pay qualified people a lot of money to keep them in the public service is extremely flawed.

“You cannot use the money from the national fiscus to compete with profits from the private sector. We are still calling for a moratorium on those increases as they continue to widen the gap between them (senior managers and politicians) and the poor, and alienate them from the masses,” said Pamla.

He said such increases would create a “poisoned environment” when government and public servants went into negotiations when the multi-year agreement lapsed in 2015.

“Public servants are watching these increases and they can see miners calling for double digit increases in the platinum belt. Nothing stops them from giving a similar mandate when negotiations kick off in 2015,” he said. - Sunday Independent