The government has been splashing R17 million on the salaries of suspended officials sitting idle at home.
Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu confirmed this in reply to a parliamentary question from DA MP Michele Clarke who asked for details of public servants who have been on suspension for more than 60 days with full pay.
Mchunu said salaries have been paid to more than 230 employees on lengthy suspensions in provincial departments, and 50 in national departments.
In a statement, Clarke said the reasons for their suspension ranged from allegations of corruption, bribery, endangering the lives of colleagues and kidnapping to gender-based violence.
Many of the suspensions are of teachers accused of sexual assault and harassment of, or improper relationships with, pupils in their care.
A teacher employed by the Northern Cape education department who was suspended for allegedly sexually harassing a pupil and who has cost the department R303 374.50 as his suspension has dragged on for more than 420 days.
In the Eastern Cape education department, a principal has been on suspension for a year and eighth months. His suspension follows allegations of sexual harassment made by a pupil, and his continued suspension has cost the department R880 887.
The director in the Office of the Premier in KwaZulu-Natal has been suspended with pay for 11 months and 23 days while being investigated for theft – the suspension has cost taxpayers R1 002 857.08.
Clarke said the continued payment of the salaries of suspended individuals due to drawn out disciplinary processes was unacceptable and unsustainable.
"Especially given the country's lacklustre economic performance and the already bloated public sector wage bill.
"The DA will not stand for this blatant abuse of taxpayers' money and calls on the Department of Public Service and Administration to put in place measures to ensure that suspensions do not exceed the prescribed time frames of 60 days for completion," she added.
Clarke suggested the department use a digitised system to obtain updated and reliable information from departments on their disciplinary cases.
"The paper-based system currently in place just does not work. An audit methodology should be developed in order to audit cases and assist in their finalization."
She said the country could not afford to waste large sums of money paying civil servants for sitting at home.
"It is in the interest of all innocent employees that they should be provided with a speedy hearing so that they can clear their names and return to work – while those who are guilty should be removed from their positions, and the vacancies filled with all due haste," Clarke added.
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