The sickening sick leave

Many government employees fake illnesses to stay home

February 23, 2018

Saudi Gazette report

IT is common practice among public servants to call in sick to stay home or attend to personal chores. And government departments continue to grope in the dark to find a permanent solution to employees submitting fake sick notes to enjoy a glorious day off from work.

Legal experts say faking sick leave is a form of corruption akin to embezzlement of public funds as the practice costs the government a lot of money in terms of lost work days. Moreover, when employees stay away from work for whatever reason, many urgent transactions of citizens are affected. Al-Riyadh newspaper investigates the negative consequences of government employees playing truant.

Majed Garoub, a lawyer, described submitting forged medical reports for approval of sick leave as a major form of administrative corruption, which can undermine the performance of any government department and have a negative impact on the transactions of citizens. This practice, which has been prevalent in most government department, is akin to embezzlement of public money, he said.

“Unfortunately, it is easy for a government employee to get a fake medical report due to absence of strict monitoring measures in some hospitals. Worse still, some hospitals issue fake bills allowing people to extort money. This is clear fraud,” Garoub explained.

He called upon the Control and Investigation Board (CIB) and the General Auditing Bureau (GAB) to introduce stricter controls when it comes to leave of absence by employees on medical grounds. They must ensure that an employee has submitted legitimate medical reports. Violators and those involved in issuing fake medical reports should be held accountable and prosecuted for forgery, which is punishable by imprisonment and fine.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, member of the Saudi Economic Association, stressed that fake medical reports have a negative impact on the national economy, let alone the process of finalizing citizens’ transactions. Some Saudis live in remote areas and have to travel long distances in order to follow up on a transaction being processed by a government agency. It is unfair to make a citizen to go through such trouble and spend hours on the road only to be surprised when he learns that the concerned employee did not show up and no one else can help.

Frequent absence from work leads to procrastination and weakens productivity. Drastic measures should be taken to put an end to negligent employees who do not respect the rights of other citizens and do not perform their duties honestly.

Dr. Salim Al-Qahtani, head of the General Administration Department at King Saud University, said this negative practice can damage the reputation and image of any government agency and compromise satisfaction levels of the people they serve. Apparently, government employees who absent themselves frequently from work using fake medical reports will increase the citizens’ dissatisfaction with the agency, especially if the employee does not have a replacement who can fill his place when he is away.

“Many government employees tend to submit fake medical reports to avoid salary deduction for absence from work. They circumvent the regulations by resorting to deceptive methods. The Ministry of Civil Service is working nowadays on a program that will help any government agency find out whether the medical report is genuine or not,” he said.

Miteb Al-Shammary, a human resources development consultant, said each government agency should have its own code of conduct, which should be respected and followed by all staff members. Such code can help employees perform their duties honestly, efficiently and with integrity.

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