THE provincial health department has paid more than R6-million in salaries to suspended officials sitting at home for the last two and a half years.

Already the department has spent close to R1m on 11 officials from April this year.

This was revealed recently during a heated question-and-answer session in Bhisho.

The suspensions relate to a raft of allegations, ranging from poor performance to misappropriation of funds. The total figure of R6 291 689 dates back to 67 officials.

However, only 23 officials were dismissed during the course of the three fiscal years starting in 2009 and ending in 2012.

The question was tabled by DA MPL and the party’s provincial health spokesman John Cupido last Wednesday and directed to MEC of health Sicelo Gqobana.

Cupido said yesterday: “The department needs to streamline the process and accelerate the bureaucratic machinery.”

Cupido alleged that civil servants were suspended on purpose and even moonlight. He said far too many officials were being placed on suspension for “years and years”.

“There is a lot of arrogance in these officials when they are suspended. Most are connected to the ruling party and they think they are untouchable,” he said.

“If found guilty, they are deployed somewhere else.”

Cupido said officials – when found guilty – should be forced to repay the salaries received during their suspension.

A similar sentiment is shared by President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma said his government should scrap suspending lazy, incompetent and corrupt civil servants on full pay.

He made the announcement during a cabinet lekgotla and warned that the lengthy disciplinary process was negatively affecting the state’s ability to deliver.

Health oversight committee chair Mxolisi Dimaza said the department was forced to follow the law outlined by the courts when it came to suspensions.

“The department does suspend without pay and it does suspend with pay but it is up to the legal team and the merits of the case to decide on that,” he said.

He dismissed claims by the DA that most of those involved were ANC members.

“It is wrong to make an association that,” Dimaza said.

“Have they asked cards?”

Neither Gqobana nor the health department’s director of communications, Siyanda Manana, could be reached for comment yesterday. —

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