Single Anti-Corruption Bureau: briefing by Minister for Public Service and Administration

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

05 June 2013
Chairperson: Ms J Moloi-Moropa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister of Public Service and Administration briefed the Committee on the plans of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to establish an Anti-Corruption Bureau. In 2002 government had established an anti-corruption mechanism in the Department. By 2007 it had become apparent that nothing would happen unless the Department took the lead in this matter. This year, at a conference in Addis Ababa, Tanzania shared its experiences and success. The government decided it was going to implement this best practice and the small anti-corruption entity would be expanded into a Bureau with extra powers. The Bureau should be operational by the end of June. The Bureau was in talks with other law enforcement agencies, as it did not currently have a law enforcement capacity.

The Department discussed the powers and functions of the Bureau and how it would work with other anti-corruption agencies and set out its targets for the following three months. The Department said that Government had a zero tolerance strategy on corruption, that sanctions had to be uniform and that public officials had to understand the repercussions of their actions. This would result in a more efficient Public Service and increased confidence in government. The Public Administration Management Draft Bill had been published for comment and the Department was engaged in bilateral discussions with interested parties. The Bill would be tabled in Parliament by the end of June.

Members asked how the Department would ensure that the Bureau was independent and not interfered with. Would it deal only with DPSA cases? Members asked how the Tanzanians measured their success. What was the human resource capacity of the Department to enact the disciplinary processes? Would the Bureau directly deal with all three spheres of government? Would the uniform disciplinary sanctions be written into the Bill or would it be in the regulations? What was meant by ‘high profile’ with respect to the person to be appointed to head the Bureau? How long would it take to grow the Bureau to its optimum size? Members asked what qualifications were required to become inspectors and prosecutors. Members asked the Department to be more specific in quantifying the budget. What specific relationship was there between the Bureau and the prosecuting authority? What were the criteria for cases to be investigated? Members asked how a centralised operation would spread itself to all the provinces. Members said that as there was a direct link from the Bureau to the Minister, what firewall was there to protect the Minister as the Minister could be compromised when it came to crime and the reporting of it? What mechanisms were in place relating to the collection of data from the three spheres of government as well as the access to it by the Bureau and possible passing on of information to appropriate authorities at the national level? What personnel were going to be employed by the Bureau? What capacity was there in the Bureau to tackle the three spheres of government concurrently? Members asked what the efficiencies on the training programme were that had resulted in 604 people being trained. What happened to whistleblowers? Members asked what action would be taken against the corruptor. Members asked if a cost benefit analysis of the bureau had been done. What would the qualifications and criteria for employment of investigators, prosecutors and presiding officers be? Members asked if the administration capacity of the Bureau was ring-fenced outside of public administration.
 

Meeting report

Briefing
The Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, briefed the Committee on the plans of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to establish an anti-corruption bureau.

She said that in 2002, government had taken a decision to find an anti-corruption mechanism. An anti-corruption committee had been established in the Department. By 2007 it had become apparent that nothing would happen unless the Department took the lead in this matter. This year, at a conference in Addis Ababa, Tanzania, which had had abiding problems of corruption, shared their experiences and success. The government decided it was going to implement this best practice. The small anti-corruption entity already in the Department would be expanded into a Bureau with extra powers. The Bureau should be operational by the end of June. She noted that the Bureau was in talks with other law enforcement agencies as it did not currently have the law enforcement capacity and would be assisted by the Hawks in the future.

Dr Alex Mahapa, Deputy Director General: Governance and International Relations, said two issues had been raised by the Portfolio Committee. How would the single anti-corruption bureau function, and as there were so many other agencies, how would they co-ordinate with them. He said the Bureau was an agency of the Public Service and a statutory body and its structure would be determined on an incremental basis over time. It would operate as a government component reporting directly to the Minister as indicated by clauses 46 to 48 of the draft Public Administration Management (PAM) Bill. It would investigate corruption in all three spheres of government.

The Department had already trained 604 presiding officers for corruption related cases. It would manage, coordinate and protect information. It would facilitate the protection of whistle blowers and had an agreement with the National Prosecuting Authority regarding whistle blowers. It would facilitate uniform disciplinary actions as currently this was decentralised and led to inconsistent disciplinary actions being imposed. The Anti-Corruption Bureau would be headed by an accounting officer and would be able to refer cases to other agencies like the Hawks. Any relevant information discovered through investigations would be referred to other agencies which had the power to prosecute.

The Bureau would share information with other agencies and have a structured relationship with anti-corruption agencies through Service Level Agreements, Memorandums of Understandings and referrals and shared databases.

The targets for the Department for the following quarter were to process the PAM Bill through Cabinet and parliamentary processes so that the Anti-Corruption Bureau became legal. The Department had held discussions with the Special Investigations Unit on the secondment of officials. It would coordinate the anti-corruption drive right down to municipal level. An existing budget and funded posts would be used to start the Bureau and the development of the unit would be on an incremental basis. The head of the unit would have to be a high profile person. A database was being conceptualized and the building up of the database would then commence. He said cases of personnel being suspended for two years on full pay had to end.

In conclusion he said that Government had a zero tolerance strategy on corruption, that sanctions had to be uniform, that public officials had to understand the repercussions of their actions. This would result in a more efficient Public Service and increased confidence in government. He said the PAM Bill had been published for comment and the Department was engaged in bilateral discussions with interested parties. The Bill would be tabled by the end of June.

Discussion 
Mr D Ximbi (ANC) asked how the Department would ensure that the Bureau was independent and not interfered with. Would it deal only with DPSA cases?

Mr D du Toit (DA) asked how the Tanzanians measured their success. What was the human resource capacity of the Department to enact the disciplinary processes? Would the Bureau directly deal with all three spheres of government? Would the uniform disciplinary sanctions be written into the Bill or would it be in the regulations? What was meant by ‘high profile’ with respect to the person to be appointed to head the Bureau?

Ms D Boshigo (ANC) said the Minister had indicated that the Bureau would grow in an incremental basis. How long would that take and what were the constraints on fully implementing the plan?
Mr S Marais (DA) asked what qualifications were required to become inspectors and prosecutors. He asked the Department to be more specific in quantifying the budget. What specific relationship was there between the Bureau and the prosecuting authority? What were the criteria for cases to be investigated?

Mr C Msimang (IFP) asked how a centralised operation would spread itself to all the provinces.
Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) said that corruption within the Public service was a cancer that needed to be uprooted. He said that as there was a direct link from the Bureau to the Minister, what firewall was there to protect the Minister as the Minister could be compromised when it came to crime and the reporting of it? What mechanisms were in place relating to the collection of data from the three spheres of government as well as the access to it by the Bureau and possible passing on of information to appropriate authorities at the national level? What personnel were going to be employed by the Bureau? Would it be ex-policemen? What capacity was there in the Bureau to tackle the three spheres of government concurrently? Regarding uniform disciplinary proceedings, he said that the matter of the Director General of the Department of Communications had recently been in front of the Committee and in this regard what empowered the executing authority to withdraw the PFMA?

The Chairperson asked what the efficiencies on the training program were that had resulted in 604 people being trained instead of the anticipated 200. What happened to whistleblowers?

The Minister replied that all South Africans were worried about corruption especially at the national level. Regarding the Minister being exposed because of the direct connection between that office and the anti-corruption Bureau, she said that the Department was leaning heavily on Parliament to protect the Minister, as this was a fight that could not be walked away from.

In reply to Mr Ximbi’s question, the Minister said that the Bureau would deal only with public servant cases. Regulations had been amended to set up the anti-corruption bureau and grow it incrementally. It would have the power to investigate in all three spheres of government as local government did not have the capacity to do so. It hoped that provincial governments would cede their cases to the national department.

In reply to Mr Du Toit, the Minister said that Tanzania was independent since 1961 and had tried many things to stop corruption. It had warned South Africa on what methods did not work. Tanzania had established “a multi-faceted and multi powered” entity which tapped into all the data available to the State. The Bureau would then be linked to financial intelligence networks, SARS and e-Natis for example. The Tanzanian model included a review of the tender processes. Treasury was currently reviewing its tender processes and the Department would link up with Treasury on this. The Department was hoping that legislation would be adopted that would allow the Bureau to cut across all three spheres of government in its operations. The Department was seeking a high profile person with the credibility, courage and strength to head the Bureau.

In reply to Ms Boshigo, the Minister said that the Department was starting the Bureau with what they had currently which was about R6m. Once the body was legal, it would get assistance in the form of secondments from the Hawks and the Special Investigations Unit. They would be targeting cases that sent a clear message of no tolerance.

She said the independence of the unit would be the success of the unit. She said the Bureau was not a super police force and would be staffed with people who had the necessary experience to deal with corruption, not policemen investigating. She said that only success would generate credibility. She said the direct line between the Bureau and the Minister was necessary and she would just have to take the flak. She said the Bureau would operate in all provinces and probably start with KwaZulu-Natal. Criminal cases would be referred to law enforcement agencies as the Bureau and the Department had no capacity to enforce the law.

She said there was no tension between the PAM Act and the PFMA. She said that the Minister had to delegate responsibilities, in this case to the director general for the efficient running of the department with regards to the PFMA. The Minister of Communications had referred the matter to the Department which in turn had referred the matter to senior counsel. The regulations needed to be revisited as currently the Minister did not have the power to discipline directors general as the President appointed directors general.

She said the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) was not working and that the Department had targeted a former accountant general to head up the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). He had agreed and was now the CEO of SITA.

Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister, said protecting whistle-blowers was very difficult and that the whistle blower protection program required lots of money and the best data analysts. The Bureau would need a commercial crime forensic capacity and good investigators. Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) on its own could not provide all these needs but it could do the preliminary training. The current Public Services Act did allow for the Anti-Corruption Bureau to be established by proclamation by the President by the end of June.

Mr Menzi Simelane, Legal Advisor to the Minister, said whistle blower protection was provided by the police and witnesses of the State were protected by the Public Prosecutor. The Bureau’s role would be to facilitate their protection.

Mr Khumbula Ndaba, Acting Director General, said the costed structure of the Bureau was R17m. The Department had some funds and would get a top up of funds, but what it wanted was funds for the three yearly cycle.

Mr Mahapa said the Bureau would be a special service delivery vehicle so information would not be compromised because there would be a direct link to the Minister. The Bureau would be headed by a high profile person with expertise, skills, knowledge, and one who is vetted.

The Chairperson asked whether it a short debate could be held in Parliament on cadre deployment

Ms M Mohale (ANC) asked what action would be taken against the corruptor.

Mr Marais asked if a cost benefit analysis of the bureau had been done. What would the qualifications and criteria for employment of investigators, prosecutors and presiding officers be?

Mr Ramatlakane asked if the administration capacity of the Bureau was ring fenced outside of public administration.

The Minister said she would welcome a snap debate on cadre deployment and the DPSA was on its track to be a professional body with each member having to write an exam.

She said she had joined the Department when the budget had already been approved. The Department had to start somewhere and then try to convince Treasury to give them their budget.

Legal impediments would have to be removed to allow the bureau to operate in all three spheres of government.

Tanzania had vouched that the method had worked. Members of her department would be visiting Tanzania and report back on what their yardsticks was.
 
She said she hoped to engage with the private sector which she said had the muscle to corrupt. Mandatory sanctions on corruptors of the public Service needed to be put into law.

Mr Mahapa said the Public Service Commission (PSC) played an oversight role and was assisting the Department in matters of oversight of the Bureau. There would be preventative measures to prevent members of the Bureau from being corrupted. The Bureau would subscribe to the integrity management framework.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix:
Public Service Dept ready to tackle corruption
Wednesday 5 June 2013 16:43
SABC

Public Service and Administration Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, has briefed Parliament's Public Service and Administration committee about her plans to launch the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Public Service and Administration Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, says her department is ready to roll out an Anti-Corruption Bureau, pending the approval of Parliament.

The soon-to-be-established anti-corruption bureau will target private sector players who lure public servants into "unholy alliances", Sisulu has warned.

Sisulu has briefed Parliament's Public Service and Administration committee about her plans to launch the Bureau. The Bureau will crackdown on corruption, fraud and maladministration in the public service.

The Department's deputy director general, Alex Mahapa, says the Bureau will work closely with the Hawks.

Mahapa, explaining the Bureau’s function, says, “We will investigate corruption-related matters in all spheres of government, conduct investigation and institution of disciplinary proceedings in respect of corruption-related matters in the public service and including the appointment of the presiding officers. Already we are training the presiding officers that will deal with corruption related matters.”
If the PAM Bill is enacted, companies involved in corruption will be blacklisted
The Bureau would start operating on an "incremental basis" and the department would not be using a "big bang approach".

This was partly because the Bureau needed to first prove itself to government and citizens.

When the Bureau is up and running by July, it will operate on a R17 million budget, which MPs complain is miniscule, given the billions of rands stolen from public coffers or lost due to mismanagement.

"What we are wanting to do is actually measure what we will be saving the State and use that as a leverage to get the necessary resources," Sisulu explains.

She will ask the National Treasury for more funding. The Minister will also talk to those in the private sector, which she blames for the huge scale of corruption in government.

"I'm very concerned about the corrupters... because only they have the financial muscle to corrupt my people," she says.

If the PAM Bill is enacted, companies involved in corruption will be blacklisted and its employees found guilty of siphoning off public money could face jail time. - additional reporting by Sapa.
 

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