By the latest count, there are 305 public servants on suspension with full pay across the national and provincial governments.
They are earning an average of well over R430,000 per year, for a total of at least R131 million – but some are making well over R2 million per year.
30% of the national government suspensions are in the home affairs department, and about a third of the provincial suspensions are in KwaZulu-Natal.
The state is now paying a total of more than R131 million per year to a group of 305 civil servants who are on suspension with full pay, the department of public service and administration disclosed this week, in answer to a question in Parliament.
That makes for average pay of at least R430,000 per year to sit at home – but in reality both the total salary bill and the average are higher. Salary information was not included for one senior official suspended from the national department of agriculture and land reform, and the provincial health departments in Mpumalanga and Limpopo have 23 officials on suspension between them for which they did not provide salaries.
The top-earning suspended official is in the department of public service and administration, itself, at an annual cost to the state of R4.95 million. While that is exceptional, there are several suspended officials making more than R2 million while barred from doing any work.
The suspensions are unevenly distributed, the data shows. At a national level, 30% of the suspended public servants nominally work for the department of home affairs, notorious for its problems with delivering simple services such as issuing identity documents. Compared to those 26 suspended home affairs workers, the department of higher education and training comes a distant second with only 12 suspensions.
Among the provinces, KwaZulu-Natal nominally employs around a third of all suspended officials, a total of 75, mostly in education and health. The Western Cape and the thinly-populated Northern Cape are joint second, with 28 officials each listed as suspended.
A little under a fifth of all the suspended government employees are classified as senior public servants.
The count is based on reports last collected at the end of June.
In a separate written reply in the National Assembly, the public service department said a total of just over 3,000 public servants had been fired in the last financial year, up sharply from some 2,300 the year before, and around 2,500 the year before that.
Exactly why they were fired is not clear in the vast majority of cases.
Three were dismissed for falsifying documents, three more for criminal offences, one for perjury and nine for "unsatisfactory attendance". 208 were asked to leave under dishonourable discharges, and 354 for deserting their posts. But in 2,424 cases, personnel records simply indicate they were fired for "misconduct not indicated".