The Msunduzi executive committee has called for an investigation into what it suspects to be an abuse of overtime at City Hall.Last week members of the committee were in disbelief when they were presented with the analysis report showing “excessive” overtime paid to the City’s employees from October to December.However, the general managers told the committee that the non-filling of vacant posts is to blame for the municipality’s high overtime bill.According to the report by human resource support manager Gary Buitendach, some officials claimed for more than 200 hours of overtime per month.The Basic Conditions of Employment Act stipulates that the maximum permissible overtime is 10 hours per week but the restriction does not apply to emergency work such as accidents, electricity outages or burst water pipes.Buitendach said while the total of hours worked by a business unit on emergencies may be justifiable, managers must take steps to reduce the total overtime worked by individuals through proper planning and rotation of employees on emergency work.“The number of hours worked by some employees is unacceptable and poses a serious safety risk to employees in terms of work fatigue.“Rotation is therefore encouraged. There are fatalities that have occurred in the municipality where fatigue led to these mishaps,” he said.The City’s 2017/18 budget for overtime is in excess of R56 million but the projected spend is more than R66 million because an excess of R33 million had already been spent by the end of December.The majority of employees claimed more than R10 000 in overtime per month with the highest being R57 600 paid out to a foreman in the electricity department in August.Buitendach recommended that general managers report to the strategic management committee on the reasons for excessive overtime with respect to some employees and also outline the corrective measures they intend on implementing to curb the high overtime within their business units.“The only way to curb overtime is to fill vacant positions because the major department that is having excessive overtime is electricity and we are all aware of the staff shortages at the electricity,” said community services general manager Boniwe Zulu in her capacity as acting City manager.ANC councillor Eunice Majola-Zondi concurred with Zulu, saying there are staff challenges across the board. She said she is, however, concerned that there could be some abuse of overtime.“As much as we know that there is a challenge of vacancies. I’m concerned about the issue of curbing overtime and looking at whether there is an abuse of overtime,” she said.Zulu said she cannot dismiss that there could be some abuse of overtime but non-filling of positions is providing gaps to opportunists to abuse overtime. She said as long as Msunduzi is not addressing the staff shortages it will be exposed to abuse of overtime.IFP’s Thinasonke Ntombela called for an internal audit to investigate the individuals suspected of abusing overtime. He said even though there is a problem of staff shortages, one can see that some employees are manipulating the system.“We have previously raised our concerns about this excessive overtime and asked that it be looked into but we haven’t received any report. It’s really worrying when you get some people claiming more than 200 hours of overtime in just one month,” he said.DA’s Glenn McArthur also shared the sentiments of the other councillors, adding that he does not think people are even allowed to work their normal hours plus 200 hours of overtime per month.General manager for corporate services Mosa Molapo said there is a red flag whenever an employee exceeds the prescribed 160 hours of work a month. She said the corporate services portfolio committee has recommended that anyone who claims to have worked more than the prescribed hours be investigated and a report sent to the executive committee in due time.ANC councillor Philiswe Sithole said the only solution to dealing with the overtime problem is to fill the vacant positions.