Public servants take R1.2 billion in sick leave over two years

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Finance

Service delivery to the communities of the Eastern Cape is being severely disrupted because public sector employees are taking excessive sick leave or simply going AWOL, costing the public purse hundreds of millions of rand each year.

The Democratic Alliance will be referring these statistics to the Public Service Commission and will call for an investigation into the abuse of sick leave in the province.

The abuse of sick leave across provincial departments has cost the province nearly R679 million in the 2021/22 financial year and more than R581 million over the first 11 months of the 2022/23 financial year.

These costs are crippling the public sector, severely impacting service delivery that is already hamstrung by the bloated cost of employment.

These shocking figures were provided by Finance MEC, Mlungisi Mvoko, in response to a parliamentary question from the DA.

MEC Mvoko revealed that in the 2021/22 financial year 433 754 days of sick leave were taken, with the Department of Health the largest offender, accruing 202 272 days of sick leave, followed closely by Education with 173 623 days of sick leave.

These two Departments were the biggest offenders in the 2022/23 financial year, excluding March, with 176 884 sick days for Health and 129 095 sick days for Education recorded.

MEC Mvoko also revealed that, over the two-year period, a further 19 509 days were lost due to staff being absent without leave, costing the province a further R23 million. The worst offenders were again Health and Education, with 14 760 and 2 360 AWOL days, respectively.

Download Response, Annexure A, Annexure B, Annexure C and Annexure D.

The excessive sick leave and AWOL cases in these two departments point to failing management systems and could also be symptomatic of poor working conditions, where overworked staff are left to pick up the slack of absentee colleagues, which in turn leads to them taking sick leave and perpetuating the cycle.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows employees to take up to 36 working days of normal sick leave over a three-year cycle. These are essential rights of employees. However, it has become a common trend for public sector employees to abuse these rights.

The continued abuse of sick leave places further strain on service delivery. Those guilty of abusing their sick leave must be taken to task.

The DA also believes that more needs to be done in terms of the rollout of wellness programmes within departments to address genuine illness concerns and improve the lives of employees.