Sunday, June 19, 2011

Civil Servants and Debt

19 June, 2011

Civil servants will be taught how to manage their finances in an urgent bid to help them get out of debt.

The aim of the initiative - which has just started for over 180000 government employees in KwaZulu-Natal - is to prevent them from becoming "vulnerable" and committing "unethical or corrupt practices".

...........over 100000 government employees in just four of the nine provinces and 18 of the 34 national departments had more than R45-million docked from their salaries in garnishee orders last month.

Employers are compelled to make salary deductions and pay them directly to creditors if a garnishee order is granted by a court.

A total of 15 642 officials in the Western Cape and Free State, who owe creditors a staggering R181-million, had R9-million deducted from their salaries last month, {May} while:
  • Staff in KwaZulu-Natal's 16 provincial departments were slapped with 25 580 garnishee orders;
  • At least 41 083 garnishee orders totalling R16-million a month affect members of the SA Police Service and correctional services; and
  • At least 21 877 teachers in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape are forking out R9.5-million a month to creditors.
KwaZulu-Natal's MEC for finance, Ina Cronje, who launched a unique financial literacy programme for her province's 189000 civil servants recently, said the alarming statistics had "reinforced the need" for the initiative.

Working together with the banks, accounting firms and chambers of business, the province's Public Service Training Academy will be holding financial education workshops for staff.

"Indebted employees are vulnerable to accepting bribes and committing unethical or corrupt practices to remedy their financial situation," said Cronje.

She said employees with financial worries could not perform at their best, while some were forced to seek additional jobs to pay their bills .

"The fatigue and stress of holding two jobs is likely to impact negatively on an employee's capacity to deliver."

She said public servants were not different from other South Africans and that "generally, South Africans are poor savers and high spenders".

A sergeant based at the KwaMashu police station in Durban said he was battling to survive because his take-home pay after deductions was just over R1000.

"I don't know how to manage any more. Long before the month is over, I have to borrow money, which I can't repay."

Dumisani Nkwamba, spokes-man for the Department of Public Service and Administration, said the country's 1.3 million public servants served the public with honesty and integrity.

"We cannot characterise them as being lazy and corrupt. It's inappropriate and wrong. There are a few who are engaging in practices that are not in line with the ethos of the public service, but it's not the entire public service."

In a statement, he said the department recognised the impact of high debt levels on productivity.
He said accounting officers needed to ensure that, after deductions, employees still had enough money to take care of their families.

The Sunday Times also found that:
  • 1 917 staffers in the Department of Justice fork out R1.2-million in garnishee orders;
  • 1 347 officials in agriculture, forestry and fisheries pay out R52 4000.00; and
  • 34 employees in the national Treasury had deductions totalling R25 186.00 in May.
Rej Brijraj, chief executive of the SA Council for Educators, said the problem of a large number of teachers being in "perpetual debt" was serious.

Modise Letsatsi, chief negotiator of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said many garnishee orders were obtained before the establishment of the National Credit Act.

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