Siva’s pay hike puzzle

Abongile Mgaqelwa

EASTERN Cape Health Department head Siva Pillay – dubbed “Dr Clean-up” by the media – negotiated a R10000-a-month salary increase to almost R1.4-million a year by exaggerating his previous income as an MP.

In a letter dated May 17 2010 to then health MEC Phumulo Masualle, Pillay asked for a salary adjustment from R1275732 a year to R1394949.

His motivation was that he had been earning R1.5-million a year as an MP when recruited by the Eastern Cape administration.

“The total remuneration package earned by Dr SM Pillay while employed by the national legislature was approximately R1.5- million inclusive of salary and benefits package available to all members of parliament,” he said in his letter to Masualle.

In fact, MPs earned R771787 a year at that time after an 8% increase approved by President Jacob Zuma.

Pillay may have earned a supplement as a National Assembly whip, which would have taken his package to R855344 a year.

However, his parliamentary salary slip for January 2010 shows he was earning a gross monthly salary of R60040.51, which included a car allowance of R13026, a parliamentary allowance of R10000 and medical and pension contributions.

His take-home salary was R35294.09. His deductions included just more than R200 for the parliamentary house in which he lived while an MP.

When approached for comment yesterday, Pillay said his application for an increase, which he signed, had been typed by departmental officials and the description of his previous income had been a mistake.

“No, that’s not what I wrote. I said my salary, my earnings, not as a member of parliament, my earnings when I applied when I was a member of parliament I was still owning my own practice. I was still owning my own business which I had to all give up,” he said.

Pillay said his total monthly income at that time had been about R200000 “and I gave it all up to come here”.

A government gazette dated November 12 2009 showing the salaries of public office bearers from April 2009, listed the salary of an MP as R771787 a year while whips earned R855344.

Pillay, Health Department superintendent-general, was cleared of corruption in September last year in an investigation by forensic auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Alleged whistle-blowers had accused him of 20 charges, including misappropriation of funds, cronyism, nepotism and tender- rigging.

Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana said yesterday he could not comment on the latest revelations about Pillay as he needed to investigate the matter.

Pillay said in an interview with television news show Carte Blanche in November he had not come to the Eastern Cape to earn a salary.

“I don’t come to Bhisho for a salary – I donated my salary back. But you’ll find it doesn’t stop me from working,” he said.

Pillay has repeatedly said his private wealth means he does not rely on a salary and he donated his state pay cheque to an undisclosed beneficiary.

In his letter, however, he said there had been an informal agreement that he would be paid an entry-level salary for the post of head of department “together with the provision of state housing and other incentives which would make up the difference between the entry notch for post level 16 and the benefit packages he received while a member of parliament for the duration of his three-year fixed term contract”.

Masualle declined to comment.

Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said he was confident Pillay would explain the matter to the people of the Eastern Cape.

“Any allegation of fraud and corruption will be investigated.”

The Public Service Accountability Monitor’s Derek Luyt said: “It’s important that this is cleared up. We call upon the MEC and Pillay to clear it up.”

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