Cop sick leave scandal

2012-02-16 00:00

POLICE officers in Hilton appear to be the top sick-leave abusers in KwaZulu-Natal, with an average of nearly 35 days each in one year alone.

They were followed by their colleagues at the Alexandra Road police station in Pietermaritzburg, with an average of nearly 24 days each.

This is according to a report tabled before the National Assembly’s safety and security committee. It is not clear what annual leave was also taken.

Between April 2010 and March 31 last year, 158 staff at Alexandra Road took 3 708 sick days — an average of 23,468 days per officer.

In Hilton, 39 staff took a total of 1 337 sick days — an average of 34,282 days each.

Maitland police station in Cape Town was the worst sick leave abuser with its 85 staff said to have taken an average of 77,2 days each in a year.

Police are entitled to 36 days’ sick leave over a period of three years.

The statistics prompted the chairperson of the parliamentary committee, Sindi Chikunga, to call for an investigation into the doctors who apparently helped these officers abuse the system.

The community policing forum (CPF) for 13 Pietermaritzburg police stations under Cluster 19 was kept in the dark about the absenteeism.

Former Pietermaritzburg mayor Simphiwe Gwala, who is Cluster 19 CPF deputy chairperson and chairperson of the Alexandra Road CPF, said he was puzzled to hear that two of their police stations were among those worst affected.

He said at no stage was this mentioned by police authorities in their regular meetings. “I am definitely going to raise it at our next CPF meeting,” Gwala said.

However, he understood that because of the nature of police work, they were likely to be affected by sickness.

Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Community Safety and Liaison, Kwanele Ncalane, said the MEC would first get the report, then engage with police leadership in the province to resolve the crisis.

“Discipline is primarily important in the police and it will be unfortunate if officers were taking leave in such a way that it affects service delivery,” he said.

Diane Kohler-Barnard, the DA’s spokesperson on police, said she would ask the Public Service Commission (PSC) to do a full investigation into this alleged widespread abuse of sick leave by police officers.

“Serial absenteeism by police officers who abuse their basic right to sick leave is undermining efforts to combat and prevent crime.

“Not only that, but it is a slap in the face to the many brave and hard-working police officers who put their lives on the line to keep South Africans safe.

“In terms of section 196 of the Constitution, the PSC has the power to investigate the personnel practices of the public service and propose measures to ensure effective and efficient performance,” Kohler-Barnard said.

According to police crime statistics for April 2010 to March 2011, released in September last year, there was an increase in sexual crime, including rape, at Hilton, while at Alexandra Road police station, the report revealed an increase in house burglaries.

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