Dear Corruption Watch,
The most recent version of the Public Administration Management Bill has some significant changes to previous versions. The new bill removes the clause that would have enforced a “cooling off” period for public employees before going into the private sector. Surely this is important to manage conflicts of interest and the potential abuse of power?
Dear Bill Reader
The Public Administration Management Bill was published for comment in May 2013. The bill was revised taking into account the written and oral submissions received from different stakeholders. The most recent version was published in November.
The draft law seeks to replace the existing Public Service Act and improve the organisation, management and functionality of the public service at municipal, provincial and national level. In particular, the new legislation aims to make it more difficult for unscrupulous public servants and business people to use state tenders for their personal enrichment.
Corruption Watch made submissions on the draft law. It supported the innovative provisions that provided for a “cooling off” period for any public sector employee directly involved in the awarding of a contract before he or she could take up work in the private sector. This would prevent an official from immediately taking up employment with a successful tenderer.
It is unfortunate that these sections have been removed from the current draft bill, because it will greatly reduce the impact of the legislation on corruption in the government.
The phenomenon of people moving between the government and the business sector is known as the “revolving door” syndrome and has the potential to create spaces for corruption in government procurement processes.
The original provisions of the draft bill would have greatly assisted in the fight against corruption in the government. They must, however, be carefully balanced with the freedom of trade, occupation and profession. This is perhaps one of the concerns that led to the removal of the provisions.
Another omission from the most recent draft is the provision that expanded the role of the Public Service Commission. Since 1996, the commission has monitored and evaluated the performance of the public service in relation to the administration of personnel practices and service delivery, and submitted its reports to the National Assembly. The draft bill proposed that this oversight mandate include national, provincial and local government. This would have given the commission greater scope to investigate and deal with improper conduct at all levels of government.
The November bill attempts to provide similar oversight by empowering the minister to prescribe minimum norms and standards regarding the promotion of constitutional values, integrity, ethics and discipline, as well as the disclosure of financial interests. The new Office of Standards and Compliance will promote and monitor compliance with the norms.
The bill is an important step in government efforts to tackle corruption. We should, however, ensure that this legislation is strong enough to achieve its objectives.
• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times