Dear Corruption Watch,
I’ve been reading about Lindiwe Sisulu’s proposals to establish an anti-corruption bureau to clean up the public service at all levels of government and tackle businesses offering to corrupt its members. I want to believe this is not just an election year proposal – what do you think?
Election year proposal conspiracies aside, and whatever the motive, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is taking concrete steps to establish an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Its establishment is provided for under the new Public Administration Management Bill (“PAM Bill”) which has been approved by Cabinet and was recently tabled in Parliament. The minister has also proposed a budget of R70-million for its establishment, although this is yet to be approved by Treasury.
Corruption Watch embraces the initiative – and is hopeful that the ACB will become an effective institution – because there is no doubt that there are institutional weaknesses in the public administration that are being exploited by unscrupulous public servants and businesses which urgently need to be addressed.
Some of the major problems we are facing are a lack of capacity in local government to investigate corruption and pursue the necessary disciplinary proceedings; a lack of coordination in the disciplining and hiring of public servants across departments and levels of government; and the phenomenon of public servants avoiding disciplinary action by resigning before the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings. Minister Sisulu has recognised these problems amongst others, and has indicated that the ACB will be mandated to address them.
As currently proposed in the PAM Bill, the head of any institution will be able to request the ACB to investigate or institute disciplinary proceedings for suspected corruption. Corruption Watch proposes that the ACB should also be empowered to institute investigations into corruption in the public sector at its own accord – which interpretation and amendment of the PAM Bill Corruption Watch it has advanced. In addition, the ACB is charged with:
- co-ordinating the conduct of disciplinary hearings in respect of
corruption-related misconduct matters in the public administration, including the appointment of presiding officers and employer representatives in such hearings;
- providing specialised technical assistance and advisory support to deal with disciplinary matters in the public administration;
- managing, coordinating and protecting information and sources relating to corruption-related misconduct matters in the public administration;
- facilitating the protection of whistleblowers in the public administration;
- building capacity within institutions to conduct misconduct investigations
and disciplinary hearings; and
- facilitating the enforcement of disciplinary sanctions.
However laudable the ACB’s mandate, it is vital that it is established with the necessary powers and institutional support to enable it to fulfill its mandate. To this end, Corruption Watch has made submissions to the Department of Public Service and Administration on the PAM Bill with recommendations on how the proposed powers and functions of the ACB can be strengthened.
Of course, getting the design of the ACB right is only the first challenge. Once it is established, we will need to do all we can to ensure that the ACB is properly utilised and supported by other government institutions to fulfill its mandate. This will require strict scrutiny from the public, particularly by employees in the public sector, and public reporting on its operations. We as citizens should claim the ACB as our own institution; an institution directed at improving our public service, and protecting our public money. We should claim the ACB and protect it, and see that it works for us.