Teacher paid to be on sick leave for eight years

2012-11-16 00:00

A ZULULAND teacher has not set foot in class since October 15, 2004 — over eight years ago — but has been receiving his salary from the Education Department every month.

The 1 615 teaching days the man has been on sick leave have cost the department R397 911,66. Another teacher, on a higher salary level, last stood in his class, in the eThekwini region, on April 18, 2007. He has been on sick leave for 1 119 days, costing the department R1 022 484,46.

The two appear on a list compiled for the department’s budget performance report for 2012/13. Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the teachers on the list would receive random visits from teams set up by department head Nkosinathi Sishi and MEC Senzo Mchunu.

Mahlambi said those deemed fit to work would be instructed to return to work, and the department would work to recoup the money that had been paid out while they were on leave.

He said a number of teachers certified to be genuinely ill had been boarded.

Mahlambi denied the department had failed to act against teachers abusing the system, saying that some teachers — still contracted to the department — were on sick leave without pay.

However, IFP MPL Les Govender, who serves on both the finance and education portfolio committees, said taking extended sick leave of 1 000 days with full pay was unacceptable and indicative of a problem in the department.

He said the practice of going off sick for such long periods undermined education and shortchanged children.

“It is totally unacceptable and cannot go on unchecked. We will be monitoring this and putting questions forward to the MEC to find out how it has gone on for so long,” said Govender.

Those teachers found not to be ill should be reprimanded and the money recovered from them, Govender said.

“We’d also like to see the department tighten up its administrative measures to ensure that those teachers do not get away with fraud.”

Those teachers unable to work due to illness could apply for medical boarding, and they would then be paid out their pension ahead of retirement age, said Govender.

African Christian Democratic Party chairperson Jo-Ann Downs said the department was overspending “massively” on sick leave as substitutes were hired to replace ill teachers.

This meant the department was paying duplicate salaries. “How do they allow teachers to take so much time off?” she asked.

Downs said government employees were allowed to take 36 days’ sick leave over a three-year period, which was “pretty generous”.

In April, The Witness reported on Zibangile Gwala, a principal at Dalusizo High School in Umkomaas, who had been on sick leave since 2007. At the time, the department said that a statement which Gwala had made in the media — that she had an incurable illness — was a direct contradiction of the findings of the department’s health risk manager.

She was ordered to return to work, albeit with her duties adapted.

Worst offenders

1 615 days (R397 911) since October 15, 2004

1 388 days (R942 676), since November 16, 2005

1 121 days (R367 936), since April 16, 2007

1 119 days (R1 022 484), since April 18, 2007

875 days (R670 169), since June 27, 2008

874 days (R668 468), since June 30, 2008

774 days (R564 054), since December 9, 2008

743 days (R388 673), since February 28, 2009

733 days (R615 189), since March 16, 2009

644 days (R405 102), since August 26, 2009

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