Corrupt civil servants are ‘untouchables’

2010-02-07 10:44

FOUR out of five public servants accused of fraud, corruption,

mismanagement and nepotism in national government have not been disciplined

despite recommendations that they face the music.

This comes at the same time that government is spending millions of

taxpayers’ rands to investigate misconduct in the public sector – while failing

to take action against those implicated.

In reports to the different departments, the Special Investigating

Unit (SIU) recommended that a ­total of 23 478 public servants be disciplined

for a variety of transgressions, but action has been taken against only 3


Last week SIU head Willie Hofmeyr told Parliament’s Standing

Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that disciplinary processes were “a

weakness of government”.

“We recommend disciplinary processes, but I’m afraid they ­seldom

run to a conclusion. The ability to implement is often weak,” Hofmeyr


He suggested that government should consider centralising

disciplinary hearings for serious cases.

The SIU has investigated a series of irregularities in the

departments of correctional services, social development, human settlements

(formerly housing) and transport over the past five years.

Derek Luyt, head of media and advocacy at the Public Service

Administration Monitor, said a lack of political will and the shortage of human

resources to deal with disciplinary cases contributed to government’s


Luyt said the shortage of human resources also contributed to a

­situation where officials were ­suspended for a long time without ­action being

taken against them.

The two issues had led to “a situation where it is relatively easy

to get away with corruption in ­government”, Luyt said.

“We welcome the expansion of the SIU and hope it will help to get

on top of its workload,” Luyt said.

Correctional Services

In November, Hofmeyr tabled a report to Parliament about the extent

of corruption and fraud in the awarding of tenders in the department of

correctional services.

The unit’s report detailed how officials, including suspended chief

financial officer Patrick Gillingham, allegedly received kickbacks for awarding

lucrative contracts – ranging from catering to security – to the Bosasa group of


In 2007 the SIU recommended 426 disciplinary cases against

correctional services officials for excessive medical claims.

Departmental spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga could not say how many

such cases had been ­finalised or were being heard.

“We have started with the disciplinary action of the officials

implicated in the report and we have also put in place processes to tighten gaps

in our procurement process,” Mbananga said.

Human Settlement

In March last year the SIU recommended that disciplinary action be

taken against 634 officials in the department of human settlements. The unit

accused officials of fraudulently receiving low-cost houses, corruption and

manipulating systems.

At the time the department’s ­director-general, Itumeleng Kotsoane,

said they would “prosecute all officials involved in fraud, ­recover the funds

and take disciplinary steps”.

Department spokesperson Tebogo Montse said any information would be

in the possession of the SIU, whose spokesperson Trinesha Naidoo could not

respond to ­detailed questions about disciplinary actions against public


Social Development

While investigating fraud and corruption

in the disbursement of social grants, the SIU found out that 43 705 public

servants were receiving grants to which they were not entitled. The unit

recommended that 21 588 of these officials be disciplined, but measures were

taken against only 3 657 who were mainly slapped with warnings. Some of them

were dismissed.

The department of transport said it referred 668

disciplinary cases to provinces to deal with after their officials were

implicated in driving-licence fraud.

A further 32 officials were dismissed, 27 resigned, 20 were

suspended, 67 were cautioned, 12 were warned and four others demoted.

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