File photo: Cosatu's spokesperson, Patrick Craven.

Johannesburg - Cosatu has thrown its weight behind the Public Service Commission’s call for public servants to be barred from doing business with the government and has urged that senior officials who fail to disclose their financial interests be charged with misconduct.

“Cosatu urges the government to act without delay on the commission’s recommendations,” spokesman Patrick Craven said.

“The spread of the cancer of corruption and the theft of public funds threatens to destroy the foundations of our democracy. Money that is supposed to be providing services to communities is being siphoned off into the pockets of a greedy elite.”

Craven said the ban on business with the state should extend to elected political office bearers and apply across national, provincial and local government.

Public Service Commission director-general Richard Levin made the call in Parliament on Wednesday. He then revealed that the amount of state funds lost through financial misconduct, including corruption, was approaching R1 billion.

Cosatu has repeatedly called for public servants to choose between serving the public and going into private business. “The same rule must apply to elected public political leaders at municipal, provincial and national level. This call extends to union and civil society leaders,” Craven said.

It was not enough for state employees to be allowed to do business with the government provided that they declared their interests, as Levin had noted that this rule was often not complied with or enforced, Craven said.

Levin told Parliament’s public service and administration committee that the cost of financial misconduct to the state in 2010/11 had rocketed to R932m.

The commission had found that some officials had as many as six businesses and noted that a growing number of senior government employees were being implicated in financial wrongdoing, Levin said.

Cosatu also endorsed the commission’s proposals for audits of government employees’ lifestyles and indebtedness, greater investigative capacity for departments and better protection of whistle-blowers.

“There must be a zero-tolerance approach starting with legislation to enforce the [financial disclosure] rule that the commission is recommending and firm action to ensure that the rule is rigidly enforced,” Craven said.

Political Bureau