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Cape Town - The net is closing on public servants guilty of financial misconduct, with new measures afoot to have them blacklisted from future government employment.
In an interview on the state of the public service, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu acknowledged that some public servants accused or found guilty of corruption or financial misconduct in the past had simply resigned, or moved to another department or province, where they started afresh with no repercussions.
Financial misconduct costs incurred by the government increased from R120 million in 2004/05 to R346m in 2009/10.
Sisulu said new measures to blacklist dishonest civil servants were part of her broader strategy to fight corruption in the public sector and would be part of a new public service charter setting out norms and standards for public servants, to be launched this month.
It has been eight months since Sisulu took the reins of the troubled department, following President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle last June. She has made it a priority to clear out the rot in the public service.
Sisulu said that in light of negative reports from the Public Service Commission and the auditor-general on the state of discipline in the public service, her ministry was in the process of establishing an anti-corruption bureau within the department to assist various departments with investigations and disciplinary hearings in corruption-related cases.
The unit would work with other law enforcement agencies and would focus on the huge backlog of unresolved cases.
Requests for assistance with investigations and disciplinary hearings related to corruption and misconduct, from provinces and national departments, were a clear indication of the need to establish an investigative unit within the public service.
“We are now creating a basis where we are able to blacklist people... We will be able to trace them and ensure they’re not employable,” Sisulu said.
One of the ways most departments dealt with disciplinary matters was to suspend people while they investigated, which could drag on for years. “Hence you find that a huge number of people are suspended, while the government tries to work out what charges to utilise, so we decided to go the route of a bureau, together with law enforcement entities, so that we can deal internally with those matters that the bureau would have had the mandate to deal with.
“But once it becomes a criminal case, above a certain level, we will then refer it to the police,” she said.
The government had found itself in a position where it was unable to deal “with the scourge of corruption”.
“We’ve analysed what has been going wrong... we are setting it right with the establishment of a bureau.
“We are also ensuring that within the established bureau, cases are dealt with centrally,” she said.
The outcome of an investigation would in future be registered on a central database, so that there could be no possibility of those found guilty of a crime working in another province.
Sisulu said the success of the anti-corruption strategy hinged on legislative amendments that were before Parliament.
She also touched on the problem, known as “javelin throwing”, where people in the government create a tender, then resign and join a company in that sector so they can benefit from the contract.
Sisulu said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi was the first public service and administration minister to have “put her foot down” on the issue of corruption, and said she believed that there should be a cooling-off period for government officials.
“We’re still cooling off. We haven’t quite got to that point. But it is part of our anti-corruption strategy.
“It is part of the central basis of the public administration law,” Sisulu said. Sunday Independent