Dear Corruption Watch,
The Auditor-General's recent report on the Department of Education surprisingly contains an amount in the millions spent on unauthorised remuneration of employees. Does the government not pay employees according to a grading system? What could be causes of exceeding the remuneration budget? And does the law allow for this?
Dear Child Advocate
Yes, government employees are paid according to a grading system depending on their “notch”, i.e. their seniority. We will confine our response here to teachers – this is regulated by the Educators Act – different salaries are paid to educators depending on rank and grade. These salary payments, because they come from the National Revenue Fund, may only be made with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance.
These salaries are adjusted upward by the Minister when required (for example for inflation or because of the annual budget allocation by the Minister of Finance should he or she decide to increase teachers’ salaries). When the Minister declares an increase in salaries he does so in what is called a Regulation which is a sort of mini-legislation. What the Minister says in this Regulation is relevant to your question.
He stipulates exactly each increase depending on the grade of teacher. He does this by setting out firstly what the teacher was earning, then the increase, and when the increase will take effect.
Why this is important to your question is because the information about increases is so precisely captured. At any given time, in any province, the department of education knows how many teachers they have at what grade and at what salary. Therefore they can calculate exactly what their yearly budget spend should be on salaries.
These salaries are then paid electronically each month. In order to make such a payment it must be loaded on whatever system is used to make these payments, and it must be loaded commensurately with the salary amounts as stipulated in the Regulation. One should therefore be able to pinpoint the unauthorised expenditure.
You ask what could be the cause of exceeding the remuneration budget. We would have to speculate. Obviously there is the possibility of an administrative error – the salary payments were incorrectly loaded. This should be easily uncovered in an investigation by matching the payments made with the salary grades, and isolating the unauthorised payments.
Another possibility is that someone is guilty of rigging the payment system. We can assume that it is all but impossible for only one person to rig the system and it would require a confederacy of likeminded embezzlers to cooperate with each other in order to bypass the checks and balances inherent in such a government payment system. But we simply don’t know at this stage what has caused these unauthorised payments. What we do know is that it is very serious and that an explanation is required.
A further question that comes to mind is why the teachers who are now suddenly receiving increased payments have sat silent and not brought this to the attention of the authorities.
In conclusion, because the law does not allow for such unauthorised expenditure a proper investigation is needed. Questions must be asked and answers must be given. It is a very worrying state of affairs. One can imagine that this sort of thing can snowball with disastrous consequences regardless of whether its cause is administrative error or corruption.
Luckily there should be a good paper trail to follow because all of these payments are documented, and it should not be too difficult to isolate the person or persons who authorised this irregular expenditure.