Hawks probe Pillay pay hike

Brian Hayward

ELITE police investigators the Hawks are probing the circumstances which led to Eastern Cape Health superintendent-general Dr Siva Pillay securing a controversial R120000-a-year salary hike, taking his annual pay to just under R1.4-million.

A letter which surfaced earlier this month shows how, in May 2010, Pillay motivated to his boss at the time, then health MEC Phumulo Masualle, for a salary adjustment from R1.27-million to R1.39- million annually.

Incorrectly stated in the letter was Pillay’s income in his previous position as an MP.

According to the letter, he earned R1.5-million annually – more than double what MPs were in fact earning then.

Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana, who instituted an informal investigation into the matter, refused to comment yesterday.

However, The Herald has reliably learnt that the Hawks were in Bhisho on Tuesday to speak to Gqobana about the probe.

The Hawks also declined to comment yesterday,

But Pillay said: “The Hawks have been here interviewing everybody but me.”

He said the controversial salary hike – okayed following his three- month probation after taking up the post – occurred after he blindly signed a memorandum from Masualle which motivated for the higher salary bracket.

In a letter last week to Gqobana, which The Herald has seen, Pillay apologises for the “somewhat distorted factual situation about the previous earnings of the superintendent-general at national parliament” and admits it contained “serious defects in its construction”.

“It is hereby submitted for the record that Dr Pillay did not state that his salary package at parliament exceeded that of the superintendent-general package.

“Instead, his submission in the form of statement earnings demonstrated a picture of overall annual earnings above R2.4-million in his last financial statement of 2009.”

According to the letter, Pillay had agreed to take the lowest salary grade for the position when signing on with the department.

“This overall earning was inclusive of the salary package from national parliament.”

While he admitted to the oversight in the memorandum, Pillay added: “I have been responsible for uncovering fraud in this department of over R800-million.

“When the net starts closing in on high-level officials, and others who have been found out start losing income [from fraudulent transactions], they try and find dirt on you.”

Pillay said he took a massive cut in salary when he signed on as department superintendent-general.

A letter from Nelson Mandela Bay tax practitioners Fintax supplied by Pillay reads: “I can confirm that [Pillay’s] gross [private] practice income for the year ended February 2009 amounted to R2495743.”

“I took this job to give back to my country. Before that I sat on numerous boards and had a thriving practice. I gave that all up for this,” Pillay said.

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