Exorbitant salaries hampers government services

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga’s overinflated wage bill appears to enrich a selected few at the cost of improved service delivery and good governance.

For the past three financial years government has paid more for less as its salary bill increased by billions, while the number of government funded posts decreased dramatically.

Funded posts decreased from 88 418 in 2009/10 to 81 536 in the 2012/13 financial year, yet last year’s wage bill totalled a whopping R18,655 billion compared to 2009/10’s R13,596 billion. This is a 20,4% increase in salary payments during a period which saw the workforce decrease by 28,11%.

Besides indicating that government is overpaying its staff, this also shows that government offers above-inflation annual wage settlements and increases, leaving less money for day-to-day operations – which in turn contributes to the trend of poor service delivery.

Although former finance MEC Yvonne Phosa and her successor Madala Masuku both admitted that the province’s wage bill is bloated, and the fastest cost driver of the provincial budget, nothing has been done to address this problem. Government continues to pay exorbitant salaries, cash incentives and bonuses.

By doing this the provincial cabinet blatantly ignores finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s appeal to ensure government’s wage bill is sustainable, and that its growth in employment and payments does not threaten the expenditure ceiling.

Furthermore government continues to claim it lacks skilled staff due to its inability to attract professionals, as it doesn’t offer competitive salaries. However, the DA fails to understand how this can be given the bloated salaries currently being paid. If government was serious about filling vacant funded posts and improving services, it would adjust current salaries to their market related level so as to have more money to offer professionals better salaries.

This also begs the question – is the Mpumalanga government being used as a payment agency for ANC comradeship?

South Africa will face a fiscal cliff if the state does not drastically reduce the growth of government employee wages, and the DA will write to the Public Service Commission to investigate this matter. Indications are that if the current trend continues all government revenue will be eaten up by civil servant salaries and social grants – a scary thought for a country which is still weighted down by extreme poverty.