New steps to curb corrupt civil servants

Pretoria - The Public Service Commission wants to establish guidelines for minimum disciplinary steps against public servants guilty of fraud and corruption.

This follows the finding that culprits escape escape without any penalties, often with no more than a written warning. Departments rarely institute criminal charges.

The Public Service Commission has conducted a comprehensive investigation into the prevalence of corruption and related risks in the public service.

It appears that 7 766 cases have been reported to the National Anti-Corruption Hotline since its launch in September 2004. In 63% of cases the department to which they had been referred for investigation failed to give feedback. Whistleblowers who put their trust in the helpline therefore did not know whether anyone had bothered to do anything about their disclosures.

Only 15% of cases referred to provincial and national government departments were finalised.

More than 1 500 complaints were received about corruption and bribery. These included false overtime claims, claims for travelling and accommodation
expenses, bribes to get tenders, bribes given to traffic officials and bribes given to Correctional Services officials to help inmates escape.

Almost 1 000 complaints were submitted regarding abuse of state resources, chiefly government vehicles. In half of these cases government vehicles were allegedly used recklessly and the speed limit exceeded, while 35% of them dealt with using government vehicles as taxis. Other charges related to stealing petrol from these vehicles or abuse of petrol cards.

The Public Service Commission found departments’ attitudes to fraud and corruption generally reactive. This was not a significant component of risk management and there was no inclination to create an environment discouraging this sort of behaviour.

What was most concerning to the Public Service Commission was where officials had the discretion to investigate allegations of corruption but swept them under the carpet.

Departmental capacity to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption – especially at provincial level, where 70% of public servants are employed and most of the basic services are rendered – is sadly lacking.

If investigations are indeed conducted, officials are suspended for long periods on full pay, which is at variance with regulations. If they are found guilty they generally receive light punishment, such as a written warning, and the matter is not reported to the police.

The Public Service Commission recommends:

- that internal controls be strengthened;

- that accounting officers include corruption in their risk analysis;

- that department heads be held responsible if disciplinary investigations take longer than 60 days;

- that the Minister of Public Service and Administration set guidelines for minimum disciplinary steps – cases must be reported to the police immediately
after notification so that internal and external investigations can take place simultaneously; and

- that the ability to investigate cases should be boosted across the entire public service with a centralised investigative unit in each province, to which premiers must allocate resources.


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