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The cost of financial misconduct in government departments has increased, but reports about such transgressions have dropped. This would be a simple statement if it did not signal the devastating extent of state corruption in South Africa and talk of the moral bankruptcy of senior public servants.
How can those entrusted with state treasures end up looting them? To whom can ordinary citizens turn?
This week, the Public Service Commission (PSC) briefed parliament's portfolio committee on corruption trends. Dr Richard Levin, the PSC director-general, recommended that public servants be banned from doing business with the state through their own businesses. He also recommended that lifestyle audits of key personnel be conducted to curb financial misconduct in the government.
Levin’s tough stance followed his shocking revelations that in 2010/11, public servants robbed the state to the value of almost R1-billion – and bear in mind that the 2012 statistics have not yet been added to the already astronomical figure attached to corruption in the state.
The PSC’s mind-boggling figures stated that:
The national Transport Department had 31 senior managers with direct stakes in companies that were awarded state tenders;
Traditional Affairs had 37;
Health had 13; and,
Human Settlements had 21.
“What is clear is that the trend of corruption taking place on a senior level means we need better and more ethical leadership in the public service,” said Levin.
Corruption Watch’s executive director, David Lewis, also didn’t mince his words. About the PSC’s analysis, he said: “This report vindicates our consistent demand that public servants should, firstly, not be permitted to undertake any paid work in addition to their employment in the public service.
“Secondly, under no circumstances should public servants or members of their families be entitled to own a company that provides goods or services to the department in which they are employed. The report of the PSC clearly establishes that these constitute gross conflicts of interest and are a major source of corruption.”
While Levin wants to see greater accountability for non-performance, Corruption Watch would like to give title of super zero of the week to all those public servants who do business with the state through their multiple companies.
How could you steal what you were hired to protect, we may ask.
As it would have been naïve not to take the imbalances of the past into consideration, the PSC’s presentation highlighted that during our history of subjugation and dispossession, the black and particularly black African population was excluded from access to markets and condemned to lives of poverty.
In the post-apartheid context, there is greater reliance on the state, not only for welfare but for patronage.
This reflects the popular tenderpreneurs’ saying: “It’s our time to eat.” But stealing from ordinary South Africans will not correct the imbalances of the past.
Some astounding figures were released by the Public Service Commission this week, prompting Corruption Watch to make those public servants who are doing business with the state, the zeroes of the week.