Fine departments for missing disability targets: MPs

2015-08-13 13:04
Picture: Son

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Members of Parliament want the public service and administration department to clamp down on government departments that do not meet the targets for gender equality or disability in the workplace. 

The issue, which was raised in Parliament’s portfolio committee for public service and administration, comes hot on the heels of the labour department’s recent announcement that it would haul companies that failed to report on equity targets before court. 

These companies could face fines of about R1.5 million or 2% of their annual turnover, whichever amount is the biggest. 

Public service and administration department director-general Mashwahle Diphofa told MPs in the committee that there was no existing legislation pertaining to the public service that makes provision for fines for government departments. 

“There are performance assessments of senior managers with a human resource component and where not meeting the targets can count against you.” 

The director of diversity management in the department, Fanani Manugu, said that on average government departments did not reach the targets of 2% representation of the disabled and 50% representation for women, especially in senior management positions. 

“Although the representation of women in senior management positions grew annually by one percentage point, it was still too low, with 40.1%,” she said. 

Only 29 departments nationally and provincially reached the 2% target for the disabled by March this year. 

Manugu also said that only 8 729 disabled people – out of more than 1.3 million public servants – had been appointed by March this year. Of these, only 119 were in senior management positions. 

According to Diphofa the 2% target could be achieved if chronic conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or epilepsy were considered. 

“There is however still a stigma attached to these conditions and people usually do not willingly come forward and disclose it.” 

Figures from the Government Employees Medical Scheme showed that more than 32 000 government officials suffered from depression. 

According to Diphofa, this figure was probably much higher. 

The Gauteng provincial government had fared the best, with five provincial departments that reached the 2% target. In KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State no provincial departments reached the target. 

Most (69) of all provincial and national government departments had less than 1% representation of disabled people. 

Committee chairperson, the ANC’s Bertha Mabe, said that only 0.66% of the entire public service was disabled, and this was unacceptable. 

“It is 20 years later. The inability to reach these targets is holding back transformation and perpetuating injustices of the past.” 

The committee undertook to ask poor performers, such as the Free State government and the South African Police Service, to report on their low figures. 

In a thinly veiled jibe aimed at the embattled national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega, Mabe said it was even worse when women at the helm of departments could not achieve targets for gender equality. 

“I pray she is still there [when the SAPS is called].”

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