Corruption a stumbling block to an improved public service
9 September 2021
Public Service Commissioner Michael Seloane says that corruption still remains “widespread” in the public service.
He was speaking at the release of the commission’s Quarterly Bulletin titled: The Pulse of the Public Service for the first quarter of the financial year.
The commissioner said one of the biggest challenges breeding a culture of corruption in the public service is employees who conduct business with the state.
“South Africa continues to face the challenge of widespread corruption within its public service. Corruption scandals are precipitated by shady, widespread public sector patronage, crony capitalism, abuse of power and abuse of authority, corruption and unprofessional behaviour in government. [P]ublic servants who conduct business with the state…in many instances, service delivery is affected negatively because companies that are appointed to render services are not given on the basis of merit but are given to people that have close proximity to power,” he said.
Seloane said while collecting data for the quarterly bulletin, the commission found that employees who were alleged to have been involved in irregularities or corrupt activities complained that they were pressured to do so through instructions from senior managers and executive authorities.
“Employees are often too afraid to defy unlawful instructions and, in many cases, bear the brunt of unlawful conduct while the executive authorities and senior managers who issued the unlawful instructions claim ignorance and/or go scot free,” he said.
The commissioner warned, however, that lower ranking public servants still have the responsibility to report any wrongdoing to law enforcement authorities.
“There are several Acts and Laws applicable in the public service which place a duty on an employee to abide by the legislative framework and to report irregularities to a higher authority. Public servants are urged to ensure that irregularities and unlawful instructions are reported to the relevant authorities as required by the legislative framework,” Seloane said.
He highlighted the importance of ethical leadership in government.
“It is imperative to ensure that all instructions to public servants are within the parameters of the law. Through ethical leadership, we will be able to influence a positive culture change and improve the image of the government. Leaders need to demonstrate ethical leadership by making ethical decisions and taking disciplinary actions,” he said.
Non-payment of supplier invoices
Seloane urged the national Treasury to take action against national and provincial departments that repeatedly do not pay their suppliers within the stipulated time frame as this has a detrimental effect on businesses.
National departments accounted for 481 unpaid invoices with a cost of at least R491 million.
“The PSC is concerned with the lack of reporting on the consequences management approach adopted by the National Treasury to deal with the repeat default in departments and provinces. The reality…is that the non-payment of suppliers…negatively impacts the operations of suppliers, with many becoming bankrupt, and thus being counterproductive to government's job creation problem,” he said.
The commissioner said these invoices were mainly from the departments of Public Works and Infrastructure and its property management entity, Water and Sanitation, Mineral Resources and Energy and Home Affairs.
“Of concern…is that some departments are still not submitting the required exception reports to the national treasury. Despite this being a compliance requirement, non-submission of these reports violates paragraph 4.6 of national treasury instruction note…which stipulates that such information should be submitted within seven days. This shows a serious disregard for accountability in the departments in these departments [and] no measures are in place to deal with this disregard of accountability by departments,” he said.
Provincially, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, North West, Northern Cape and Free State led the way in non-payment.
“Whilst the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng and North West are known repeat defaulting provinces, the Northern Cape is for the first time showing such a high number of invoices not paid…with the related cost of R 195 109 935,” he said.
The PSC said that it has recommended that compliance oversight for payment of suppliers be included in the performance contracts of ministers and MECs.