Govt departments pays millions to suspended officials - PSC

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Anele Gxoyiya.
Anele Gxoyiya.
  • Government departments have been spending more than R25 million to pay people who  have been suspended for prolonged periods of time.
  • One Department of Correctional Services official was suspended for two and half years on full pay. 
  • The Public Service Commission said cases were delayed because government agencies relied heavily on outside agencies for hearings.

A Department of Correctional Services official spent 883 days on suspension with full pay while waiting for his disciplinary hearing to be finalised.

This emerged in the Public Service Commission's quarterly bulletin, which keeps a check on the public service, for October to December 2022. 

Public Service Commission commissioner, Anele Gxoyiya, released the report on Thursday.

Although the breakdown of costs varies for national government departments that have suspended officials, the correctional services and police departments have the most suspended officials.

There are 51 Department of Correctional Services on suspension at a total cost of R5 111 159. The official who was subjected to the longest period of suspension - more than two years - was from this department.

Gxoyiya commented on the number of days officials spend on suspension and said the government was wasting money.

Her referred to one incident: "The person has been sitting at home on full pay. When you count 883 days, it is two full years and seven months. If that person had a business, he would have run his business effectively because nothing is disturbing his life. He was suspended, and nothing is happening to the case."

Another department that incurred steep costs was the police department, with a total of 56 people on suspension at a cost of R1 420 831. The longest period of suspension in that department was 303 days. 

READ | Unlawful instructions from political figures hamper service delivery, good governance - PSC

The Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation suspended an official for 590 days at a cost of R2 428 673. In contrast, the Department of Higher Education suspended one official for 493 days at a cost of R971 867. 

Provincial departments have reported a high number of unresolved precautionary suspension cases.

The Eastern Cape has reported 12 people on suspension, with the longest averaging 200 days. The total cost to the provincial government is more than R2 million. 

KwaZulu-Natal has 19 people on suspension, with the longest cases averaging 571 days. The total cost for the provincial government is more than R8 million. 

Gxoyiya said the commission reported that the total cost of suspensions was more than R25 million nationally. 

He said the reason for the delay in cases was that government agencies relied heavily on outside agencies to hold hearings. 

He added: "There is a real risk that precautionary suspensions decided on by departments remain active for a long time because reliance is placed on external legal practitioners to conclude disciplinary processes, at massive cost to the government."

"Precautionary suspension does not amount to a breach of the employment contract by the employer because the employee remains on full pay, although prevented by the employer from performing the duties that would normally be required of the employee.

"Likewise, suspension with full pay should only be considered a last resort if it is not possible for the employer to precautionary transfer an employee during the investigation," Gxoyiya said. 

The commission recommended that if suspensions continue for more than 60 days, workers should be assigned tasks that are not related to their positions.

It also raised red flags about a lapse in human resource protocols in many government departments. 

"Ideally, suspensions should be for a period of no longer than 60 days. To this end, the PSC recommends that once the 60-day period has expired, the affected employee should return back to her work station or must be stationed in other relevant units within the department," Gxoyiya said.

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