Gauteng’s Health Department says a shortage of labour lawyers in its offices has resulted in the government paying millions in salaries to many suspended officials.

This year alone, the department has paid more than R2m to 18 officials who have been on suspension with full pay for almost a year.

A report in The Mercury notes this was revealed by Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku in a written reply to DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom who wanted to know the number of officials placed on suspension for offences in the workplace.

In his reply, Masuku said his department has 84 cases of officials facing disciplinary action for offences dating back to more than six months.

Only two cases of disciplinary cases dated back to more than a year, he said.

Detailing reasons for the delay in prosecution, the MEC said it was due to the complexities of cases, unnecessary postponements and capacity constraints in dealing with labour matters in his department.

To deal with the issue, Masuku intends to appoint a service provider – a law firm with a labour law background – to focus on senior management services members.

As for continuous training and development of labour relations practitioners, currently 22 practitioners are attending a dispute resolution course, commonly known as ‘Commissioner’s Course’, with the University of Stellenbosch,’ Masuku said.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)