THE Eastern Cape Department of Education is investigating millions of rands paid out to teachers for sick leave.
About 140 teachers are being investigated for having taken sick leave since 2007.
According to DA provincial spokesman for education Edmund van Vuuren, the department is expected to recoup R54-million from these teachers.
But education boss Modidima Mannya said the figure was not correct and that the R54-million paid out since 2007 could include salaries to substitute teachers. He said an investigation was under way.
“We’ve reviewed about 71 cases at the moment, but I will not reveal the outcome. We are going to deal with those found to have abused the system.”
Mannya said in some cases teachers had submitted sick notes which were disputed by the department’s health risk managers.
He added that some had also taken leave, against department policy, for almost a year. “We are going to take action against those who have been found to be misusing state money. If someone has been found to have lied, that is bordering on fraud.”
Education employees are entitled to three months’ sick leave, but Mannya said some teachers had been sitting at home for five years.
“A substitute teacher was employed in some cases, which means the department had to pay the same salary twice for a teacher on illegal leave and for the substitute. “[In] one case, a teacher has applied for sick leave, but is running his business,” Mannya said.
A Port Elizabeth teacher, who did not want be named, said more than R32 000 was deducted from her salary this month (which included her birthday bonus) for taking sick leave in 2007 and 2009.
“I handed in my documents [sick notes from doctors] to the department but never received any letter from the department.
“But seeing that there was a substitute teacher placed in my position at the school, I assumed that the leave had been approved by the department.”
Mannya said it was unauthorised leave according to the policy of the department.
Regarding the docking of salaries, Van Vuuren said it was wrong because teachers were only informed of this at the last minute. He said some teachers had applied for sick leave, but these were still being processed by the department years later.
“In most cases, substitutes were appointed which indicates that approval for leave was granted. These unlawful deductions are indicative of a department that has no credible databases and filing systems, to the extent that they cannot produce relevant documentation in order to positively identify those who have transgressed.
“Their filing system is in a shambles. At head office, files are stored in a box and nobody is accountable for this administrative mess.”
Van Vuuren said it was unfair for teachers to suffer because of the department’s administrative mess.
COPE provincial spokesman Nkosifikile Gqomo said a lack of administration and leadership was a cause of problems in the department. “We are going to continue having these problems because we have inefficient people in the department. People are going to continue victimising the department’s systems. We are not condoning the abuse by staff or teachers, but there is no administration in the department,” he said. — firstname.lastname@example.org.