Paid sick-leave is putting pressure on government's purse

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After publishing the below article, the Sunday Times issued this apology:

Apology

In “Sickening: officials paid to stay home”, we reported that Sonia Lupondwana had been suspended for poor performance when she returned to work following a lengthy absence. She was not suspended for poor performance.

We also said she had been placed on sick leave in February 2018 after being diagnosed with high blood pressure, then returned to work only to be placed on incapacity leave because of depression.

She was diagnosed with hypertension only in May 2018, and she told us she was placed verbally on suspension for six months. We apologise for these errors. We also apologise to Lupondwana for identifying her and using her photograph when she had asked to remain anonymous.

MedicalBrief Note:

The full, original, Sunday Times article can be found on its website. The extract published by MedicalBrief follows below. We regret inadvertently republishing an erroneous statement in the Sunday Times article, namely that Ms Lupondwana was suspended for poor performance.

In the past financial year, government departments paid out more than R310m in salaries to staff on sick leave or suspended, reports the Sunday Times.

Sonia Lupondwana is reported to have been paid just over R1m in the past 17 months – without lifting a finger. The Times reports, a director in Eastern Cape Health, she was placed on sick leave in February 2018 after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. She returned in May last year but a day later was placed on incapacity leave for six months, due to depression. The report says within a week of returning to work in November last year she was suspended for poor performance, but in February this year she was told her post had been declared redundant. Since then she has been "doing household chores and watching TV", while on full pay.

The report says Lupondwana is among the hundreds of civil servants being paid to sit at home. In the past financial year, government departments paid out more than R310m in salaries to staff on sick leave or suspended. Public service & administration spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba confirmed that 8,097 national employees had been granted sick leave of more than three months since January 2014.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) says poor management is to blame for prolonged time away from work, and that those managing leave have "no respect for the public purse".

The Times report

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