Unit to tackle graft in public service
The government has launched a niche unit aimed at curbing corruption and fraud among public servants by implementing norms and standards on ethics, integrity and discipline management. While the unit has no criminal jurisdiction or investigative mandate, it has authority to refer reported cases to lawenforcement entities for investigation.
The government has launched a niche unit to curb corruption and fraud in the public service by implementing norms and standards on ethics, integrity and discipline management.
This comes as a recent survey found that South Africans see corruption as mounting during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s term at the Union Buildings. Ramaphosa won the presidency on an anticorruption ticket in February 2018.
Public service and administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo launched the newly established public administration ethics, integrity and disciplinary technical assistance unit this week.
The minister said while the unit had no criminal jurisdiction or investigative mandate, it had authority to refer reported corruption and unethical cases to law-enforcement entities for investigation.
Dlodlo said the unit is an “integral cog in the anticorruption machinery of government and an important instrument to address corruption, fraud and unethical conduct in the public administration. Co-operation between the unit, law enforcement and other relevant agencies is key to identify public administration employees involved in corruption.”
She said this included cases involving public servants involved in fraud relating to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the special relief of distress fund and personal protective equipment procurement.
A probe by the late auditorgeneral Kimi Makwetu in 2020 into the UIF temporary employer/employee relief scheme (Ters) uncovered alleged fraud and irregularities in the system including overpayment of more than R84m to 1,183 applicants and underpayment of R251m to 1,700 applicants along with the invalid rejection of beneficiaries, fraud and double-dipping.
Problems included payments to people below the legal age of employment and people who were deceased, working for the government or in prison.
Dlodlo said the unit was also aimed at curbing the practice of government employees doing business with the state.
“When the department first started to monitor this in 2017, approximately 8,500 employees were listed as suppliers on the central supplier database. As of the end of July 2021, this amount stands at 96, and is interrogated to ensure no contracts are concluded with these employees,” she said.
The police, the National Prosecuting Authority and the department’s team had identified 17 priority cases for investigation, “of which one case is already enrolled to court”.
“The unit is also following up with departments to assess the steps taken against culprits and to support further action.
“This sends a clear message: public administration employees are not allowed to conduct business with the state, and in terms of the Public Administration Management Act, this is a criminal offence.”
The unit, which also refers noncriminal cases to the Public Service Commission, the public protector or auditor-general, has a critical role to play in reaching objectives stated in the government’s national anticorruption strategy, Dlodlo said.
“This is to contribute to the building of an ethical leadership, to professionalise the public administration and to establish a culture of reporting and whistleblowing. The main aim of the unit is to institutionalise ethical conduct in the public administration,” she said.
“In this regard, the unit plays an important role to professionalise the public service by setting norms and standards on ethics, integrity and discipline management and to strengthen government’s oversight of ethics, integrity and discipline,” the minister said.