The best-paying job in government – get suspended

 ·26 Oct 2023

The Department of Public Services and Administration has noted there are 417 government officials on suspension with full pay currently – with a combined payslip of just over R128 million.

This was revealed in a recent parliamentary Q&A where the Minister of Public Service and Administration was asked about the backlog of pending disciplinary cases within the public service and how many public servants are currently on suspension with full pay – including costs.

In response, the minister noted that there are 3,265 pending disciplinary cases dating back as far as 2016. The minister further revealed that, of these cases, 417 public servants are currently on suspension with full pay, with amounts paid to these individuals totalling R128.3 million and counting.

The minister noted that these figures are estimated based on the FOSAD reports submitted by National and Provincial departments for quarter one of the 2023/2024 financial year.

The minister’s reply also highlighted that 42 of the public service employees currently on suspension occupy a senior position in government.

Of all the governmental departments, the Department of Health, Education, and the Department of Correctional Services have the most employees suspended with full pay.

Some of the longest suspensions include a Social Development official who has been on suspension with full pay for over five years, ‘earning’ over R1.4 million for doing essentially nothing.

The same is true for a health department official who has been on suspension for over three years and counting and has earned almost R5 million so far.

When averaged out per year, these officials have been earning anywhere from R280,000 a year at lower salary levels, to over R1.5 million a year at higher salary levels – all while being suspended.

The table below shows the longest suspensions recorded by the minister, including the department the servant workers are in, how much they’ve been paid so far and what salary level the employee falls under.

DepartmentDuration of suspensionAmount paid Salary level
Social Development5 years 21 daysR1 403 0267
Education3 years 186 daysR1 095 4027
Health3 years 53 daysR4 742 03912
Social Development3 years 49 daysR2 792 24612
Human Settlement2 years 317 daysR3 586 95913
Public Service & Administration2 years 259 daysR4 374 40015
Health2 years 220 daysR3 217 48612
Science & Innovation2 years 253 daysR1 921 43011
COGTA2 years 91 daysR1 240 0928
Agriculture & Rural Development2 years 60 daysR2 333 62013
Social Development2 years 38 daysR890 8599

This revelation is very concerning, given South Africa’s budgetary position.

The National Treasury even proposed drastic steps to rein in spending as the government has run out of money and faces a debt trap – including a freeze on new public service jobs, stopping procurement contracts for all infrastructure projects, and keeping public servant salary increases in check.

Treasury noted in this 2023 budget review that, from 2008/09 to 2021/22, consolidated government spending, on average, consistently grew faster than GDP and consolidated revenue, mainly driven by the public-service wage bill, rising debt-service costs and transfers to households.

It also listed the public wage bill as one of the main risks to the fiscal outlook.

Despite this, the majority of South Africa’s public sector unions agreed to a 7.5% wage increase earlier this year after five months of strike action.

The two-year, multi-term deal is significantly higher than what the government had factored into its 2023 budget, which snuffed out any efforts to manage the bloated bill. By 2026, the public wage bill is expected to increase to R760.6 billion.

Read: Private jets and R50,000 pictures – the gifts given to South Africa’s millionaire ministers and MPs

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