Governance and Administration Cluster media briefing
22 Sep 2016
The Governance and Administration Cluster held a Media Briefing to explain measures that are taken to curtail public servants from doing business whilst still employed in the public sector. The briefing was attended by Public Service and Administration Minister, Ngoako Ramathlodi; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Des van Rooyen; and the Director-General of DPSA, Mr Kenny Govender.
Questions and Answers:
A journalist asked with regard to public servants disclosing their business activities how government would ensure that they make a full disclosure, and had the departments made an investigation on means to determine the veracity of the disclosures
A journalist asked what would be the penalty for non-disclosure, and did government have a thumb suck estimate of these business activities by government employees.
A journalist asked if government had a way of ensuring that officials that had been dismissed from work did not return to the public service because they had seen officials like Director Generals dismissed from national departments resurfacing in local government level.
Minister Ramathlodi responded that units had been established within the departments to make sure that they monitored the activities of the civil servants. They also relied on the national calling system, which was prepared that if an official had not declared they would be notified. The system was strengthened in order to protect whistle blowers from intimidation from those that had been reported. Once they had indicated that then they were given a penalty to leave the public sector or as from August 2016 till early next year to abandon their business activities with government. It was to detect officials that are doing business with government because their system will reflect those officials and be able to deal with them.
On the question of officials dismissed from one sphere of government and resurfacing on another sphere of government, the Minister said that at the moment they are beginning a process through the Public Service and Administration Act, which gave them the capability to implement measures that will allow them to have a single public servants data base. The act allowed systemic implementation through regulations with the approval of the Presidency. At the moment gazetted regulations prohibited civil servants from doing business with government. The next phase will include all spheres of government so that they are able to detect anyone, because one payment system will allow them to see the movement of civil servants. They are not there yet but they had strengthened that area.
Mr Govender said from local government point of view, in terms of the back to basics programme which rests on 5 pillars, namely, putting people first, ensuring the delivery of basic services, ensuring sound financial management, good governance, and building strong institutions; that pillar of building strong institutions involved amongst others, ensuring the right people with the right qualifications and experience were appointed to the right positions. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) promulgated regulations almost 3 years ago that set out very clearly the minimum requirements for senior officials in local government. Those regulations also make provisions for anyone who is convicted of a disciplinary offence within local government and, depending on the offence, will be banned for certain period. The maximum of the ban is 10 years from employ anywhere in local government.
Once someone has undergone that disciplinary process the relevant municipality is obliged to register that person’s name on the database which is kept in every province and consolidated at national level so that when someone applies for a position in local government the municipality is obliged to check on that database whether that person has been convicted of an offence elsewhere in local government. The person doesn’t even need to have been convicted but merely the fact that he/she had been charged but the disciplinary process has been initiated will qualify for registration in the database because often they found that civil servants get charged and knew they are guilty and resign before a disciplinary process is instituted against them. Therefore, in local government there are levels of that system but obviously it needs to be strengthened to apply to all 3 spheres of government.
The DG said with regard to the declaration of interests by senior officials that the Public Service Commission does make a follow up on those declarations. The PSC system is linked to various databases such as property database, vehicle registration, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) database, etc. In essence a routine lifetime audit is performed in all those declarations, they are not made for the sake of making them.
The Minister emphasised that at national level the DPSA monitors those senior civil servants who are supposed to comply. For instance, there is a case where a senior official resigned from his previous employment in the national department. He went through interviews and was recommended for employment but the employment of that particular official was blocked and communicated that information to the relevant Minister.
A journalist asked where the department is with regard to the issue of golden handshakes for senior officials within the national departments and in local government. Secondly, how national government is going to mitigate the relationship in local government since big metros like Tshwane and Johannesburg are currently run by opposition parties.
A journalist asked at what point the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs can intervene in the 2 municipalities that have not yet constituted in KwaZulu-Natal, and what interventions could he implement.
Minister van Rooyen said the interventions of national government in matters of local government are guided by the provisions of section 139 of the Constitution. Guided by those provisions they had seen the MEC, Ms Nomusa Dube, in KZN working together with the 2 municipalities, Jozini municipality which delayed the constitution of uMzinyathi district municipality. As a result of that intervention Jozini municipality was recently constituted, and as they were speaking they will have uMzinyathi municipality duly constituted.
The Minister said MEC Dube reported what is happening in Nquthu municipality. There was a dispute which was ultimately subjected to court on the issue of the withdrawal of the representative from one of the political parties represented in the municipality. As a result, the litigation process affected the constitution of that municipality. As they are speaking they were working very hard to ensure that matter is speedily resolved. But their intervention in any municipality is obviously guided by the provisions of section 139 of the constitution.
Minister van Rooyen said in terms of the relationship of national government with metros run by the opposition that this is not a new phenomenon for the national government because it happened in the 2011 local government elections where some municipalities were taken by the opposition. Cape Town municipality is run by the opposition and there is no animosity between national government and Cape Town municipality. This relationship is guided from the allocation of resources and there are intergovernmental relation frameworks which are very clear on how they should relate with all municipalities. There are forums like MINMEC where issues are discussed and relations strengthen between all spheres of government.
Minister Ramathlodi said on the issue of golden handshakes that COGTA issued a statement reminding municipalities how to deal with this problem because in some cases golden handshakes are a setback to government’s fiscus provision. The golden handshake is something they will continue to discourage.
A journalist asked the Minister to provide the inception date for the anti-corruption hotline and also to Minister van Rooyen, what the status and progress is of the Traditional Leaders Amendment Bill which has been subjected to a lot of criticism.
A journalist asked whether there is an increase or decrease in the number of officials dismissed, and what exactly is the total number of public servants in the public service currently.
Minister van Rooyen said on the amendments to the Traditional Leadership that an Amendment Bill is currently being entertained in Parliament, and he is not in a position to answer how far that process is because it is a Parliamentary process. That process allows for further consultation with regard to changes to the municipal act and among those changes is a provision for the recognition of the Koi San people in the constitution of the council.
Minister Ramathlodi said the anti-corruption hotline was operational in September 2004. He was not sure of statistics on the increase or reduction of disciplinary cases of civil servants
The DG said they had not done any evaluation whether there was increase or decrease in the cases. It should be pointed out that the cases reported in terms of the anti-corruption hotline are referred to the PSC and the referral to the provinces and departments; they know exactly how those responses have been dealt and what the outcome of those is. It does not deal with all other corruption cases and other disciplinary cases that are dealt by the departments. The DPSA is looking to a comprehensive report on discipline management in the public service handling the sanctions and the outcome of disciplinary cases for the current financial year. Therefore, they will be making that information available at a later date.
The DG said the number of public servants in the public service is approximately 1.300 million public servants nationally and provincially.