Dear Corruption Watch,
Is there no list somewhere of fraudulent and corrupt employees in government? Disgraced public officials continue to be 're-deployed'. For instance, a chief director was dismissed for fraud but was still allowed to act as COO in the same department. The same official was then made chief director in local government. How can this happen?
Sick of the job-hopping
Earlier this year, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe undertook to publish the names of people who had been convicted in cases of corruption as well as those whose assets had been frozen or forfeited to the state. This list will not include every government official convicted but rather a smaller list of the 32 people convicted by the Anti-Corruption Unit since its inception in 2010 as well as another 59 whose assets had been forfeited. While this seems like a small number, there have also been 237 arrests which could result in successful prosecutions. It is an important precedent and a step in the right direction.
Harsher consequences for those convicted of corruption, including the possibility of being publically named and the implications on future employment, may work to deter those involved in corrupt activities and prevent them from accessing further opportunities to commit these crimes. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, for example, makes provision for the establishment of the Register for Tender Defaulters where the particulars of people or enterprises convicted of an offence involving corruption relating to contracts or to tenders may be endorsed.
A government employee suspected, but not convicted, of corruption will be subjected to a disciplinary enquiry and the department is obliged to report the matter to the South African Police Service. Unfortunately, these processes often drag out over long periods. During this time the accused person must be regarded as “innocent until proven guilty”. For this reason, you may find that a person is allowed to continue to work and may also be moved to a new position within the department for other reasons. However, once the disciplinary process has taken its course and a person is found guilty of corruption, an appropriate sanction will be imposed which in most cases would include dismissal.
Dismissal or a criminal conviction for corruption does not automatically render a person ineligible to work in the public sector. However, it is an important factor that should always be taken into account in the recruitment process. There are various requirements in place when considering appointments in the public service which, if followed, would ensure that dishonest candidates are detected and not re-appointed. A conviction of fraud or corruption will almost always have to be disclosed when applying for a new position and most government departments will screen applicants for criminal convictions.
Unfortunately, these precautions are not always taken. The Public Services Commission has noted with concern that the nature of recruitment and selection within government makes it susceptible to corruption and malpractices. This means that in some cases the proper recruitment processes are not followed and prior corruption charges or convictions are deliberately over-looked in the appointment process or a corrupt official is appointed in order to facilitate the illegal activities of other officials within the department.
Publishing the names of government officials involved in corruption will only take us so far. The real challenge lies with the political will to root out corrupt officials. It is vital to ensure that public officials overseeing recruitment processes understand and see the benefit for themselves and their country in following the correct procedures and appointing honest and properly qualified candidates in their departments.