Eastern Cape civil servants rack up over one million days of sick leave

Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane listens to the provincial DA leader, Nqaba Bhanga challenging the provincial government over officials who have taken over one million sick leave over the past two years.
Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane listens to the provincial DA leader, Nqaba Bhanga challenging the provincial government over officials who have taken over one million sick leave over the past two years.
Image: Michael Pinyana

Eastern Cape government officials have racked up more than one million days of sick leave over a two-year period.

In the first five months of the current financial year, extended sick leave has already cost the province R68m.

DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga revealed this in a statement on Wednesday.

Bhanga said it was clear provincial government was “sick to its core” after various departments racked up 1.2m days of sick leave in the last two and a half years.

He said the abuse of sick leave was crippling the public sector.

Responding to parliamentary questions sent by Bhanga, premier Oscar Mabuyane revealed that during the 2017/18 financial year, 494,621 days of sick leave were taken.

In 2018/19, 447,859 days were taken.

Between April and the end of August in the 2019/20 financial year, 292,875 days of sick leave have already been taken.

Mabuyane said the extended sick leave, which is sick leave in excess of the allocated entitlement, has cost the province in excess of R238m in 2018/19, up from near R201m in 2017/18.

Mabuyane's response revealed that the biggest offenders of extended sick leave were the department of health and education — two of the most critical departments in the province.

“Extended sick leave in the department of education has cost the province R312.7m in the last two and a half years, while the department of health’s extended sick leave has cost the province R142.3m over the same period,” he said.

In the first five months of the 2019/20 financial year, staff in the department of health have already taken 135,245 days of sick leave, while staff in the department of education have already taken 102,144 days.

“The Basic Conditions of Employment Act makes provision for employees to take up to 36 working days normal sick leave over a three-year cycle. These are essential rights of employees. However, it has become common trend for public sector employees to abuse these rights.

“While premier Mabuyane acknowledges that the departments need to strengthen their management of prolonged sick leave, there has been little to no visible consequence management enforcement,” he said.

Bhanga added that while provincial government already had a bloated public service. Continued abuse of sick leave thus places further strain on service delivery.

“Those guilty of abusing their sick leave must be taken to task,” he said.

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