Social development discipline 'faliures' cost R51m

Social development MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi
Social development MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi
Image: FILE

The provincial social development department has forked out R7m to pay 51 employees while they were suspended over the past five years.

A caregiver was fired after being found guilty of an assault that caused a child’s death. Asked if there was a criminal case against the caregiver, the department said they did not have a case number.

The transgressions range from fraud to damage to property and assault. MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi confirmed the information in a written reply to questions from DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren in the Bhisho legislature.

Mani-Lusithi’s report paints a picture of lawless officials who act with impunity in the department and a lack of consequence management. At least eight of those charged were interns, while 24 social workers and two supervisors were fingered in wrongdoing.

In the case of one unnamed employee, she was found guilty of financial mismanagement in an internal disciplinary process that recommended dismissal. She was placed on precautionary suspension in February while she appealed the ruling. 

However, according to Mani-Lusithi, the appeal process was placed on hold in April while the woman took maternity leave, which comes to an end this month.

She said 21 officials took part in an unprotected strike in 2017. After precautionary suspension, the dismissal rulings were reduced to only one month’s suspension without pay.

Mani-Lusithi said 28 department officials went on the rampage in another illegal strike in 2018, when state property was damaged  and faeces smeared on state vehicles. A number of unspecified officials were dismissed, but on appeal the dismissals were reduced to three months without pay.

Van Vuuren said sterner action should have been taken against the 51 officials.

“These employees sat at home, drawing salaries, while hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty were deprived of the services these individuals were supposed to be providing.

“These cases indicate a failed consequence management system. Instead of consequences, these individuals were rewarded with time off at full pay, while service delivery to the people of the Eastern Cape suffered.

“The overly drawn-out investigation process has to be revisited and a comprehensive turnaround strategy put in place to ensure officials accused of wrongdoing are dealt with speedily,” he said.

“Consequence management needs to be enforced with an iron fist with the least negative impact on the public.”