Enhance corruption fighting agencies’ capacityComment on this story
Parliament, Cape Town -
The capacity of corruption fighting agencies needs to be enhanced, and these bodies must have political will and support, according to the revised National Development Plan (NDP).
The plan, presented to President Jacob Zuma during a joint sitting of Parliament on Wednesday, says political will refers not only to public statements of support, but a commitment to providing sufficient resources and taking action against corrupt officials.
Political parties should strive to maintain ethical conduct among their members, and political leaders should realise the effect of their behaviour on the integrity of the office they hold.
The NDP says there has been insufficient commitment and continuity from the different sectors in the multi-sector anti-corruption forum (government, business, and civil society), and the institution is underfunded.
It says the forum has a valuable role to play in combating corruption at all levels in society, and efforts should be made to strengthen it with the necessary resources to be more effective.
Further, protection for whistle-blowers is insufficient.
While the Protected Disclosures Act provides some protection, it does not do enough. The legislation has several weaknesses and the scope of protection in the law is too narrow.
The document recommends a review of the act. This review should consider expanding the scope of whistle-blower protection outside the limits of “occupational detriment”; permit disclosure to bodies other than the Public Protector and the Auditor-General; and, strengthen measures to ensure the security of whistle-blowers.
Regulations to the act should be developed as soon as possible, and government departments must develop policies to implement it.
The plan further recommends centralised oversight of tenders of long duration, or those above a specific amount.
It says the vast range of tender opportunities in the public service has come with increased opportunities for corruption for both officials and contractors.
Mechanisms to manage integrity and promote ethical conduct in the public service include the public service code of conduct in the public service regulations, the financial disclosure framework, and supply chain management prescripts.
However, the implementation of these measures has been poor, leading to frustration about the delayed response of departments in preventing and combating corruption.
Implementation and adherence to the code of conduct is limited, with departments sometimes taking months to institute disciplinary processes against offending officials.
Reports by the Auditor-General indicate that a large number of government employees and their spouses have been involved in government contracts, raising suspicion of abuse of office.
This is despite there being rules in place in the public service code of conduct to prevent officials from engaging in transactions that may result in improper personal gain, or are in conflict with the execution of their official duties.
The NDP says non-compliance with the financial disclosure framework is endemic; managers are seldom sanctioned for failing to disclose their interests; and, departments do little with the information they receive.
Strengthening the accountability of public servants requires more consistent implementation of existing rules.
The plan recommends an accountability framework be developed, linking the liability of individual public servants to their responsibilities, in proportion to their seniority.
Rules restricting the business interests of public servants should be made more specific and clear.
A study should investigate expanding existing regulations and improving the institutional processes and capacity to manage the rules.
Restraint-of-trade agreements should be considered for senior civil servants and politicians at all levels of government, and corrupt officials should be made individually liable for losses. - Sapa