Call to review suspension-with-pay policy

2011-06-04 16:07

Calls are increasing to review the suspension-with-pay policy that has cost the taxpayer millions of rands.

The policy that acts on the premise that a suspended official is innocent until proven guilty, has in recent years been at the centre of controversy.

» The SABC alone has spent more than R17.4-million in three years to settle the salaries of two Group CEOs.

» A total of 105 police officers were suspended with full pay in the 2009/10 financial year, costing the taxpayer nearly R2.5 ­million. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa recently added his voice to calls to review the suspension policy.

» Only two weeks ago drunk driving Judge Nkola Motata’s special leave with full pay – that has already added up to almost R5 million – was extended until the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has concluded its investigation into allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him.

Motata has been on special leave with full pay since May 2007, shortly after he crashed his Jaguar into the wall of a house in ­Johannesburg. He was found guilty of driving under the influence in November last year.

A complaint was subsequently laid with the JSC to investigate whether he was fit to hold judicial office. His case will only come up before the JSC again at its next sitting in October.

A recent report by the Public Service Commission (PSC) highlights the biggest problem in dealing with alleged corrupt officials: most departments take more than the legally required 60 days to finalise disciplinary enquiries, even in minor cases.

“This is too costly for government as the officials are being suspended from duty with full pay,” the PSC said in a statement.

And for a suspended official it is not all fun and games sitting at home doing nothing while getting a full salary.

Former acting group CEO of the SABC Gab Mampone, who was dismissed in April this year after being on suspension for more than a year, on Friday said being on suspension had caused “a lot of mayhem to his personal life and career”.

He said the 15 months he was on paid suspension was money wasted by the public broadcaster, adding his case should have been handled in a professional, quiet manner with both parties parting ways amicably.

“But they contorted a lot of nonsense and publicly vilified me, destroying my career prospects, wasted taxpayers money just because the new CEO and board do not like your face and want you out.

“I do not wish this on my worst enemy,” Mampone said.

DA shadow police minister ­Dianne Kohler-Barnard says while it will be difficult to change the law when it comes to the suspension-with-pay policy, there is ­already a lot government ­departments can do to curb the costs.

“If we have to pay the straight salaries of suspended officials, why don’t we stop paying for their perks as well?

“We should stop paying for VIP protection services, vehicles, cellphones and calling costs when an official is suspended or placed on special leave with full pay. This will already bring down the cost of the hefty bill to ­taxpayers.”

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