The Eastern Cape Government is clearly sick to its core, with the various government departments racking up in excess of 1,2 million days of sick leave in the past two and a half years.
The abuse of sick leave is crippling the public sector.
In response to a parliamentary question Premier Oscar Mabuyane revealed that in 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.
Premier Mabuyane said the extended sick leave, which is sick leave in excess of the allocated entitlement, has cost the province in excess of R238 million in 2018/19, up from near R201 million in 2017/18.
In the first five months of the 2019/20 financial year (April to August), extended sick leave has already cost the provincial government in excess of R68 million.
The biggest offenders of extended sick leave are the Department of Health and the Department of Education, which also happen to be two of the most critical departments in terms of service delivery, as they interact directly with members of the public.
Extended sick leave in Department of Education has cost the province R312,7 million in the last two and a half years, while the Department of Health’s extended sick leave has cost the province R142,3 million over the same period.
In the first five months of 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.
The Eastern Cape government already has a bloated public service and the continued abuse of sick leave places further strain on service delivery. Those guilty of abusing their sick leave must be taken to task.
The DA also believes that more needs to be done in terms of the rollout of wellness programmes within departments, to address genuine illness concerns and improve the lives of employees.
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