Government paid R130 million to officials sitting at home on suspension

 ·26 Aug 2022

The South African government has spent millions of rands paying the salaries of suspended officials over the last two years.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, acting minister of Public Service and Administration, Thulas Nxesi, noted that the government’s personnel and salaries management system (Persal) recorded 1,062 officials on paid suspension between 2020/21 and 2021/22.

This excludes data from the Department of Defence and the State Security Agency, he said.

Over this time, the various government departments paid out R131.2 million in salaries. Officials were suspended for an average of 86 days, so salaries were paid for three months of no work being done.

It should be noted that officials are suspended for various reasons which are not necessarily indicative of guilt in wrongdoing. The department did not indicate which or how many suspensions ended in dismissal.

Most of the suspensions took place in national departments, with KwaZulu Natal accounting for the highest number of provincial suspensions.

KwaZulu Natal also had the longest suspension periods, with officials suspended with pay for an average of 170 days.

The tables below outline the provincial breakdown and cost of suspended officials.


Government departments No. Suspended Avg. Days Cost
National and Provincial departments 1 062 86 R131 220 645


Government departments No. Suspended Avg. Days Cost
National 315 64 R26 771 901
KwaZulu Natal 78 167 R18 604 803
Western Cape 22 69 R1 738 867
Mpumalanga 15 77 R1 902 342
North West 15 73 R1 107 316
Free State 14 151 R5 266 317
Eastern Cape 7 93 R635 239
Northern Cape 6 77 R861 815
Limpopo 3 62 R305 543
Gauteng 3 12 R69 041
Total 478 84 R57 263 188


Government departments No. Suspended Avg. Days Cost
National 380 64 R31 426 800
KwaZulu Natal 89 174 R22 205 822
Eastern Cape 29 105 R3 720 597
Western Cape 24 68 R1 730 997
North West 20 123 R6 632 282
Mpumalanga 15 77 R1 934 787
Free State 13 148 R4 648 836
Limpopo 6 77 R778 626
Gauteng 5 25 R148 056
Northern Cape 3 99 R730 650
Total 584 87 R73 957 457

Ghost workers

More egregious than the millions spent on suspended officials is the government’s problem with ‘ghost workers’ within its departments.

‘Ghost workers’ are instances where departments, municipalities and SOEs fork over billions of rands to people who aren’t actually working for them.

Issues around ghost workers are often uncovered when these groups conduct a physical headcount and compare the numbers to the payroll.

In 2021, the Msunduzi municipality in KwaZulu-Natal discovered as many as 120 ghost employees, and in 2020, the City of Tshwane said it had identified as many as 1,400 ghost workers on its payroll.

In June 2022, the Mpumalanga provincial government announced a major process to verify all 83,000 of its employees on Persal. Meanwhile, transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced earlier in August that his department would be investigating how 3,000 unverified employees got onto Prasa’s payroll.

Read: Government uncovers 3,000 ‘ghost workers’ drawing salaries at Prasa

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