Overtime overpayment is a rich source for municipal plunderers – Ethekwini report

A bodyguard in the Ethekwini municipality who usually earns around R20 000 a month before tax, claims R70 000 a month in overtime. A security guard, who usually also earns R20 000 a month for patrolling the precinct around City Hall, claims overtime of R50 000 a month. 300 municipal employees within a single department – Security Management Unit – have blown the municipal budget for overtime by more than 120% in this financial year. Despite an overtime cap of 40 hours per month, employees have been claiming up to 300 hours of overtime for the last year.

This was revealed in a leaked internal report, dated March this year, that seeks to explain why the overtime in this one municipal department has blown the budgeted R46 million to reach a projected R116 million in unauthorised expenditure.

According to the report, the security unit is chronically understaffed. Massive absenteeism and quantities of unplanned leave has led to other employees having to fill the gaps. The security unit comprises the VIP Protection Unit, security guards around the city hall precinct, and the Land Invasion Unit.

Members of the Land Invasion Unit do not work at night because of security concerns, and therefore are only able to rack up overtime on weekends. However, one single supervisor in the Land Invasion Unit has claimed for 260 hours – which translates to a 32-hour day on Saturdays and Sundays.

The report did state that an external service provider (ie. a private security company) was taking over some of the functions of the overworked and overstretched municipal employees and was greatly reducing the costs.

However, Finance, Security and Emergency Services Committee member Chris van den Bergh says that, if this report is true, he wants to call for a forensic audit into this amount of overtime, and the unbudgeted pay-outs.

“Despite the fact that overtime pay is supposed to be limited, it seems this money has already been irregularly spent,” he said. “It is criminal that the city compels people to work overtime to this extent, it could lead to claims against the city if people get into trouble due to fatigue or overwork. Let alone the possibility that some of these hours are physically impossible. No-one can work for more hours than there are in a day.”

The report on the over-expenditure in the Security Management Unit comes in the wake of an Auditor-General report showing that KZN led the way country-wide with irregular over-expenditure of R5,6 billion for 2019, of which Ethekwini Municipality was responsible for almost half at R2.3 billion.

The Auditor General complained that “there is often a blatant disregard for the legislation that governs good administration, without punitive measures being taken against errant officials.”

The city did not respond to a request for comment.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.

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