The Department of Social Development in the Eastern Cape has paid out over R7 million to 51 employees who were placed on paid leave over the past three years, pending the outcomes of investigations against them.
These employees sat at home, drawing salaries, while hundreds of thousands of people, living in poverty, were deprived of the services these individuals were supposed to be providing.
In response to a parliamentary question, MEC for Social Development, Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi confirmed that the Department has paid out R7,052 million.
[SEE: IQP 16 qq 389]
Of the 51 officials, one case still needs to be finalised, one has since been dismissed, and the rest have all returned to work, despite initial findings that called for their dismissals.
The one case currently being investigated by the Department is against an employee who placed on suspension in February, due to allegations of financial management and other related charges. This official’s case was supposed to be heard in April, but has been postponed to November, as she is now on maternity leave.
The dismissed employee was a departmental care giver, who had assaulted a child, who later passed away. The investigation, which was launched in 2014/15 financial year took two years to conclude, while the official drew a salary. After the official was dismissed, the matter was under appeal until 2018, before the case was finally resolved.
In the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years a total of 49 employees were placed on paid leave while being investigated for unlawful protest action; damage to state property; destruction of furniture; and even for spilling faeces on vehicles.
Again, these officials sat at home, drawing salaries, and despite rulings of dismissal, the MEC for Social Development reduced their sanctions to suspensions of between one and three months without pay.
These cases are a clear indication of a failed consequence management system within the Department. Instead of consequences, these individuals have been rewarded with time off at full pay, while service delivery to the people of the Eastern Cape suffered.
The overly prolonged and drawn out investigation process of the Department has to be revisited and a comprehensive turnaround strategy has to be put in place, to ensure that officials accused of wrongdoing are dealt with speedily.
Consequence management needs to be enforced with an iron fist with the least amount of negative impact on the public.