Many South Africans are prepared to act on corruption but the accountability of public servants is a herculean task, Corruption Watch deputy executive director Bongi Mlangeni writes in The New Age.Integrity and political will are some of the essentials in combating corruption in government. Minister of Public Service and Administration, Lindiwe Sisulu, appears to have grasped this is what it takes to affect perceptions on the ministry she presides over.To her credit, she has breathed life into what had become a moribund ministry whose anti-corruption strategies seem to have been reduced to the unresponsive anti-corruption hotline. She has used the media skilfully to reposition her ministry as being serious about fighting corruption at a time when perceptions about public servants, elected representatives and their involvement in corruption are increasingly negative.The Transparency International Barometer indicates that 74% of respondents in South Africa believe that public representatives and civil servants are corrupt. To change such perceptions is a herculean task.Sisulu has proposed daring steps, so grand that they necessitate a cautious optimism in the face of real obstacles. The proposals are contained in the draft Public Administration Management Bill, which is open for public comment until the end of this month. Some of the clauses break new ground in the array of laws and policy frameworks that have been regulating the public service. The bill proposes to end the party for public servants who directly conduct business with government.It requires disclosure of family members' interests in companies that trade with government, it prohibits the re-employment of public servants who have been dismissed for misconduct and prevents procurement officials from taking up work with the service providers to which they have awarded contracts for a period of a year.These and the proposal of an anti-corruption bureau could enable change if they are far reaching enough.In our work, we know that the thirst for efficient and accountable public servants is urgent and this is reflected in the more than 4 200 reports lodged with Corruption Watch (CW).They reveal high levels of abuse of both power and resources by public servants and elected representatives. Procurement processes are particularly prone to abuse. Close to a quarter of reports point to challenges at municipal levels and the Auditor General's reports have highlighted the same.Sisulu's energy to fight corruption will have to cut across all levels of government to be effective. The independent powers of each tier of government may be her biggest hurdle, particularly in holding leaders at municipal levels more accountable.If her interventions don't have impact at that level then the negative perceptions about public servants and elected representativeswill persist because this is where the majority interact with government.For the minister to achieve the desired change, she needs massive support not just from within government but from the public. It is for this reason that as Corruption Watch we intend to comment extensively on aspects of the bill and support the minister's efforts to promote accountability among public servants.The good news from the TI survey is that between 61% and 80% of South Africans surveyed are willing to do something about corruption. Whether it is saying no, reporting it, signing the CW anti-corruption pledge or a petition and spreading the word. What is needed is broader political will as shown by Sisulu. Hence our cautious optimism.Key points:Integrity and political will are some of the essentials in combating corruption in government.Minister Sisulu has breathed life into what had become a moribund ministry.She has used the media skilfully to reposition her ministry as being serious about fighting.The Transparency International Barometer indicates that 74% of respondents in South Africa believe that public representatives and civil servants are corrupt.The bill proposes to prohibit re-entry to the party for public servants who directly conduct business with government.The minister needs support not just from within government but also the public.ExcerptMany South Africans are prepared to act on corruption but the accountability of public servants is a herculean task, Corruption Watch deputy executive director Bongi Mlangeni writes in The New Age.