Watchdog hopes public graft won't hit R1bn

2012-11-07 18:22
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Cape Town - There has been a leap in the cost of financial mismanagement and corruption in the public service, the watchdog Public Service Commission reported on Wednesday.

Briefing Parliament's public service and administration portfolio committee, PSC director general Richard Levin told MPs he hoped this would not soon hit R1bn a year.

Although the trend in the actual number of reported cases of financial misconduct - for the five years from 2006/07 to 2010/11 - showed a decline, the cost had rocketed.

"What's significant is the value; the value has gone up dramatically, from R130.6m [in 2006/07], to... R932.3m in 2010/11.

"We're moving towards a billion [rand]. We don't have 2011/12 [figures] yet, but - and obviously we're hoping it won't - will it hit the billion mark?"

There were 1 035 reported cases of financial misconduct in 2010/11, but Levin said this was under-reported.

"But certainly... there's an escalation in the value of financial misconduct. The figures speak to it."

Levin said a "fundamental problem" within the public service was the number of senior managers who had other business interests.

"That's something we need... to take very seriously; whether we should continue to countenance this situation whereby senior managers in the public service... through a process of disclosure... are actually allowed to have business interests that aspire to do business with government.

"That is a fundamental problem. We need to look at it quite seriously."

While there were arguments on why this should be allowed, in terms of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the implications of allowing it needed to be understood from an ethical, corruption, and performance standpoint.

"Because, if I'm running four businesses, can I really do justice to my full-time job as a senior manager in the public service, if I'm running all those businesses on the side? Will I have the necessary time to do my job properly?"

The PSC, which is constitutionally mandated to monitor the public service, believed senior public service managers should not be permitted to have such business interests.

"Can we permit a senior manager to have a business interest that seeks to do business with the state? Our view is that it's wrong."

Levin said the commission was also concerned about the number of departments, national and provincial, which had not submitted financial disclosure forms this year, listing senior managers' business interests, if any.

"We are concerned. There are 31 departments that did not submit financial disclosure forms to the PSC by 31 May (for 2011/12). Seventeen were at national level, and 14 were at provincial level."

He then named several "serial offenders", including the national departments of communications, correctional services, military veterans, rural development and land reform.

"We would see those as repeat offenders."

Of the provinces, North West was the worst performer.

"The [North West government's] departments of human settlement, local government and traditional affairs, public works, roads and transport, sports, arts and culture, and the office of the premier, are repeat offenders in the province. This is a matter of grave concern because this is the very basics of compliance."

Levin said corruption was a major problem for the public service, and the procurement process, for goods and services, was a major channel for such corruption.

"Procurement is critical as an empowerment tool, but it is also... a major channel of corruption in the public sector, and in the public service in particular."

He said a culture of "no consequence" within the service was creating a breeding ground for corruption.

"There is too much of a culture of no consequence in the public service, and that is a context in which corruption can flourish. When public servants begin to experience consequences, then they will begin to take things more seriously."

Levin said it was important there be consequences for financial misconduct.

"In 76 percent of cases, there was no criminal action taken [in the 2010/11 year]. Only in 20% of cases was criminal action taken.

"This indicates that we need to see greater commitment that where criminal charges are appropriate, [these] are implemented."

He told MPs discipline in the public service was not effectively managed, with officials being placed on long periods of precautionary suspension.

In 58% of cases, those suspended spent 91 days or longer on suspension.

Read more on:    psc  |  government spending  |  corruption

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