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Cape Town - Parliament's watchdog on public accounts is set to summon the admin heads of various government departments who are spending millions of rand of taxpayers money on tenders with companies linked to government employees.

The office of the auditor-general briefed MPs on Tuesday on the scope of the conflict of interests before new public service regulations outlawing government employees from doing business with any organ of State came into effect in August last year.

It emerged that up until the end of the 2015/16 financial year, several departments still had a high number of employees doing business with the State. The AG's report indicated that the department of police was the biggest culprit with tenders worth R14.8 million being allocated to companies which were linked to department employees.

The department of justice and constitutional development spent R5.9 million on companies where there was a conflict of interest. The departments of trade and industry, public works, and public enterprises were also singled out. "We want ethical public employees and when employees do business with the State in contravention of the law it tells you the untold possibilities of wrongs that can happen," said Themba Godi, chairman of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

Godi said the fact that employees who were guilty of not declaring their interests or falsely declaring their interests were not being punished meant that irregular expenditure totalling tens of billions of rand would continue to climb. "If you look at the ever-expanding amounts of irregular expenditure they tell you that following laws and regulations is not what is at the top of the agenda of quite a number of State employees," said Godi.

"We want to break this culture of impunity that has been there and we felt that as Parliament we need to take that responsibility of consequence management into our hands." The affected departments would be called before Scopa to explain what steps they had taken to prevent its employees from unfairly benefitting from government contracts.

"Our interest as Parliament is to drive towards clean and ethical administration. We must never say it's still a small fire, we must wait until it's big before you use the fire extinguisher. You must nip it in the bud."

- African News Agency (ANA)