The Committee had had two workshops so far on the Code of Conduct and ethical behaviour for public office bearers, and this was the third one. The first aim of the workshop was to help the Committee develop a common understanding of a Code of Conduct, which outlined the minimum ethical standards of behaviour for all representatives. The second aim was to share experiences and exchange ideas on how to protect the integrity of Parliament, and also the integrity of municipalities. The third aim was to identify best practice and adapt such best practice to the specific conditions of municipalities. Lastly, the workshop had been designed to help the Committee craft a plan of what was to be done in the work of ethics. Even if the details of that plan were not concluded, the plan could at least be drafted from these workshops.
The Ethics Committee identified the Code of Conduct for public officials and how negative conduct had to be addressed. It also sought to make sure that people understand how they could act with ethical values. The job of the Members of the Ethics Committee was to provide guidance required by those who wanted to act ethically. While the Committee was strict in its implementation of the Code, it was there to assist Members. Functions of the Integrity Commissioner included promoting and ensuring the implementation of the Code of Conduct and Ethics (COCE) for Members. The Privileges and Ethics Committee of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature had proposed the establishment of a Gauteng Ethics Sector Forum.
Concerns raised by Members and delegates were that the budget of the National Ethics Committee needed to be increased. The budgets of district and local municipalities should also be increased so that they could have the necessary resources that would allow them to have their own ethics committees. They also wanted the public officials from district and local municipalities to have access workshops and training in the Code of Conduct, and other ethical matters.
Co-Chairperson Singh began by welcoming delegates and media, saying that the media would be passing on very important information from the workshop. He also acknowledged the presence of Gauteng’s Integrity Commissioner, Dr Ralph Mgijima, who had spent time preparing a presentation for the Committee, which it appreciated. He said that public officials were the custodians of the integrity of their institutions and needed to ensure that the public’s trust in them was not misplaced. The public expected public representatives to be trustworthy and the public put their trust in these representatives when they voted for them or their party. South Africa’s democracy could be strong only if people had faith in their public representatives. All the institutions that the delegates came from were democratically elected institutions, and the Ethics Committee wanted the public to have faith in these institutions, whatever they were. The link between democracy and codes of ethics had been established since the beginning of democracy and referred to the ancient city of Athens, by way of example. Although the Code of Conduct for Athens’ public officials had been written centuries ago, public officials in the democratic country of present-day South Africa could still use this as a guide. They needed to enhance the institutions that they were members of, and ensure that their input made their institutions better.
He said that the citizens of South Africa deserved that all of the delegates conducted themselves ethically first, before looking at ordinary South Africans. Research on codes of conduct and ethics showed that individuals welcomed advice in situations that were difficult and unclear. He warned those who were willfully intent on breaching the Code of Conduct to ensure that they behaved correctly and conducted themselves morally and ethically. The job of the Members of the Ethics Committee was to provide the guidance required by those who wanted to act ethically. It also needed to make sure that procedures like the annual disclosures took place, as some Members did not seem to take the task of disclosure seriously. They might make these disclosures only at the last minute and do it on the day of the deadline. He filled in his disclosures as soon as he received the documentation. It was important for Members to do this because the closer it got to the deadline, the more they would find other very other important priorities taking precedence over completing those forms and they might run out of time to complete them.
In implementing the work of the Committee, Members needed to build a climate of trust with all of the Members of the Committee, irrespective of political affiliation. When one worked in the Ethics Committee, what was important were the issues that one deliberated on and how one was going to take the work of the Committee forward.
The Ethics Committee had to identify the conduct of public officials in each area which impacted on local government, and how negative conduct had to be addressed. When a member of a legislature or a council member did something wrong, the media would always indicate which institution that person belonged to -- for example, the Gauteng legislature or the KwaZulu-Natal legislature. The name of the institution that the person belonged to or the city they came from would always be mentioned in these reports, and this impacted on all members of that institution or city. It was therefore very important that institutions considered how negative conduct had to be addressed.
Co-chairperson Masondo proceeded from where Mr Singh had concluded. He said that delegates needed to ask themselves why they were at the workshop. In this regard he wanted to briefly consider the objectives and aims of the workshop. The first aim was to help the Committee develop a common understanding of a Code of Conduct, which outlined the minimum ethical standards of behaviour for all representatives. The second aim was to share experiences and exchange ideas on how to protect the integrity of Parliament and also the integrity of municipalities. The third aim was to identify best practice and adapt such best practice to the specific conditions of municipalities. Lastly, the workshop was designed to help the Committee craft a plan of what was to be done in the work of ethics -- even if the details of that plan were not concluded, the plan could at least be drafted from these workshops. This workshop was the last in a series of three, and the Committee hoped that it would create an opportunity for all delegates to discuss important issues relating to the Code of Conduct and ethical matters.
South Africa had an elaborate integrity framework. Codes of conduct were important, as they defined the values and provided clarity on what was acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and set clear rules on how Members should conduct their private business. The Ethics Committee needed to develop measures to discourage improper conduct. However, while punitive actions and sanctions were necessary, they were not the ideal way to build ethical contexts.
Delegates should also consider how these discussions could be further broadened to cover those municipalities that were not in attendance at the workshop, to try and find a way of assisting them to also have access to the knowledge that the delegates were gaining. He asked delegates to also consider whether an Ethics Forum could be established. Specific training on the Code of Conduct was required, and delegates should consider what form this training should take.
The Committee had instituted many measures to ensure compliance on Members’ directorships. While the Committee was strict in its implementation of the Code, it was there to assist Members.
In a new Parliament, Members were assisted with workshops and the Committee provided multiple training for members. These training sessions were multi-party and available for public officials across the board.
Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament
Ms Fazela Mohamed, Registrar of the Ethics Committee, welcomed all delegates to the presentation. She spoke briefly about the Code of Conduct. Like many of the legislatures and councils, the Ethics Committee monitored the work of its colleagues in Parliament. The reason that the Ethics Committee was always an internal Committee was that this made Members of the Committee better able to judge whether behaviour was correct or not. An internal committee also dealt with its peers, making Members of the Committee more sensitive towards how they dealt with accusations of misconduct as they knew how it would feel if a false accusation was leveled against them by another party. It was the responsibility of a public official to protect the reputation of their institution and when they were elected, they needed to hold not only themselves accountable, but also others within the institution. A Code of Conduct was important because it defined what was acceptable and unacceptable behaviour on the part of public representatives, as they faced a lot of scrutiny from the public.
Ms Mohamed then discussed what kind of matters needed to be disclosed by Members to the Ethics Committee. These included shares and financial interests that Members owned that could create a conflict of interests. There were some interests that everyone in society had in common, such as discussions in Parliament on electricity, but these interests did not need to be disclosed by Members as they would not personally benefit from taking part in such a discussion. In such a case, electricity would be considered a common interest of a trivial nature. It was therefore important for the Ethics Committee to distinguish between major and minor interests of Members.
Remunerated employment outside of Parliament needed to be declared. The Constitution did not allow Members to get second employment from the State, as they could not be paid twice from the State coffers. Political parties determined whether a Member could get employment outside Parliament. Even if a party allowed a Member to have employment outside of Parliament, their employment could not be a form of subtle lobbying and they could not work for firms that wanted them to lobby in exchange for remuneration. Directorships or partnerships needed to be disclosed. Money from consultancies also needed to be declared so that the Ethics Committee could see how much money public office bearers were getting from consultancies.
Sponsorships had to be publicly disclosed. There were rules that governed what could be disclosed privately, but sponsorships had to be disclosed publicly.
Gifts and hospitality needed to be disclosed. Public office bearers did not need to disclose gifts of a traditional or family nature, however. There was no hard and fast rule about what constituted gifts of a traditional or family nature because the Ethics Committee did not want to make the rules so onerous on Members that it made it difficult for them to comply. Instead, the key question that public office bearers needed to ask themselves was how the public interest was impacted by the disclosure or the receipt of a particular gift.
Travel paid for by an outside source had to be disclosed. It was useful to keep an eye on this, as public officials often undertook trips innocently but later got into trouble when these constituted conflicts of interest. The most important thing for a public official to remember in accepting such trips was their reputation and the public’s perception of their integrity.
Benefits had to be disclosed. Benefits constituted a catch-all category, so if a public official received something for free and they did not know where to disclose it, they could disclose it under Benefits. As Codes of Conduct were guidelines, the Committee could not make rules for every single circumstance, which was why a category like benefits was necessary.
Land and property also had to be disclosed by public officials. This was an important matter, specifically for councillors. Often people thought that not disclosing their interests in land and property was a victimless crime. However, she gave the example that if a municipality was developing a new area and making demarcations, the councilor could buy land from poor people living on that land for very little money and sell it to the developing agent for a big profit. In this case, the poor communities living in the area that was being developed were the victim, as they should be benefiting from the profits made from the sale of that land. The Code of Conduct therefore instructed that councillors may not improperly use confidential information to their own personal benefit. Such a transgression was viewed with the same severity as insider trading by stock brokers. Public officials who were found guilty of such transgressions may be imprisoned.
Public officials also needed to disclose their pensions. While Members often thought that a pension should not to be disclosed, this was required of public officials for various reasons. For example, if a public official was a senior director in a company and they directed business with the State towards their company and the State signed a big contract with that business, then it was in the public’s interest to know that that official received a pension from that particular company. This was not a problem in South Africa so much as it was in the United States.
The Ethics Committee could use Codes of Conduct from other countries, but it needed to find out what the local circumstances were. There were many public officials that had integrity, but merely made mistakes. The Ethics Committee aimed to provide guidance to those people so that they did not make mistakes. It considered that 99% of public officials were not corrupt and that they simply needed assistance in knowing how to implement the Code of Conduct. Those public officials that wanted to willfully breach the Code had to be dealt with in accordance with the law.
The children and the spouses of Members were not public representatives and were not in the public domain and therefore they usually did not need to disclose publicly. What Members of the Ethics Committee earned was also considered confidential and did not need to be publicly disclosed, and this was the same for officials of provinces and municipalities.
Lastly, trusts and encumbrances also had to be publicly disclosed.
The Ethics Committee sought to make sure that people understood how they could act with ethical values. The Code defined what was confidential and what needed to be publicly declared, and detailed what the values of public representatives should be. Values that should guide Members in their conduct included integrity, objectivity, openness, honesty, leadership and selflessness. Most of these values were self-explanatory, but Ms Mohamed wanted to elaborate on the value of selflessness. She said that selflessness in the public domain referred to public office bearers putting members of the public first.
Prohibited activity included:
- Any benefit/tender or contract with an organ of State;
- Any benefit, tender or contract received by a Member’s spouse/permanent companion, immediate family or business partner that arose out of that Member’s influence or due to their relationship with a Member;
- Lobbying for remuneration;
- Any remunerated employment with the State.
She then ended her presentation and asked Members and delegates if they had any questions pertaining to the presentation.
Ethics framework for Members of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature
Dr Ralph Mgijima, Integrity Commissioner (IC) for the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), said the GPL sought to support the work of ethics within the city of Johannesburg. His presentation dealt with the Code of Conduct and Ethics (COCE) for Members. The Gauteng Privileges and Ethics Committee was chaired by the Deputy Speaker, and its mandate centred on two areas: breach of privilege and contempt by Members, and breach of the COCE.
In cases of breach of privilege and contempt, the Privileges and Ethics Committee investigates and reports on the charges. The rules of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature set out the procedure that had to be followed in cases where a complaint relating to contempt had been lodged with the Speaker of the Legislature.
Functions of the IC included promoting and ensuring the implementation of the Code of Conduct and Ethics (for Members. The COCE had universal principles. It also kept a register of Members’ interests. The GPL was now in the process of instituting an electronic submission system. The IC aimed to play a supportive role to Members, as opposed to a prosecutorial role.
A significant function of the IC was investigations. Investigations may be self-initiated by Members or initiated after written complaints had been received by a Member of the GPL, or when the public believed that the COCE had been violated.
Key requirements of the COCE included keeping a register of Members’ interests. Section 16 of the COCE provided for the disclosure of registrable interests. Although not specifically provided for in the old COCE, Members would be required to update their declaration of interest forms at any time during the year when these interests changed.
Regarding shared experiences with Canada, the Ethics Committee had had the privilege of having discussions with the Ethics Commissioners in Canada. Two important factors of the mandate of the Canadian Ethics Commissioners were that they were independent and had separate budgets.
The Privileges and Ethics Committee was finalising a review of the COCE. Fundamental areas of review would include the prohibition against doing business with the State; the independence of the IC in terms of decision making, with a separate budget; the inclusion of trusts; shareholdings; and state contracts and indebtedness under the disclosure of registrable assets, which were originally not there.
The Privileges and Ethics Committee of the GPL had proposed the establishment of a Gauteng Ethics Sector Forum. This forum would serve as a sub-committee of the Gauteng Speaker’s Forum. Within this forum, experiences and knowledge needed to be shared.
Proposed legislation for the ethics framework was a province-wide Integrity and Conflict of Interest Act, which was presently under consideration. Such an Act would take into consideration the following gaps:
- Sentiments of the Gauteng Ethical Sector Forum;
- Ethical framework for leadership of Provincial Government Ethics;
- Lobbyists registration;
- Executive Members Ethics Act; and
- Expenditure review of aspects such as travel, accommodation and hospitality. This was an area of concern in Gauteng.
Co-Chairperson Masondo then opened the meeting to questions from Members and delegates. He said that the discussion would work better if they raised the most important issues first and the less important issues later, in case they ran out of time to discuss all of them. He was sure that the discussion was going to be very interesting.
Ms Suzan Dantjie, Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature, said that the North West Provincial Legislature would like to engage with the Canadian Ethics Commission in the next financial year, as it recognized their model as a model of best practice. The North West Legislature supported the proposal of establishing an Ethics Board that could be established through the speakers' forums, as these were very active. Theirs was a very small legislature which looked to the GPL as a role model. As part of the process of using the GPL as a guide, its legislature should have a panel of not more than three commissioners, and the Speaker should appoint an ad hoc committee. An advertisement needed to be posted for members of this panel, which should contain a retired judge and someone who would take into account moral regeneration. She thought that continuous workshops would be helpful.
Co-Chairperson Masondo reminded Members that he had asked them to summarise and start with their key points.
Mr Z Mdluli, Member of the Ethics Committee for the Nkangala District Municipality, said that it seemed as though the main objective of the Ethics Commission was to assist Members to do their work diligently at the local level and to provide a transparent government. The Ethics Committee could therefore not be just an ad hoc committee. The Code of Conduct adopted by councillors at the beginning of their term should be included in legislation, as this would be a good way to ensure transparent governance in the country. As there were often less councillors at a district level, that would really need to be a shared service.
Mr M Poho, Councillor for the Fezile Dabi District Municipality, gave an example of a situation he had been involved in. Students were being sent to Cuba for training and the family of one of the students had invited him for lunch and given him an expensive pen to thank him. He wanted to know if he had been in violation of the Code in this instance.
Ms L July, Councillor for the Mangaung Metro Municipality, said that hers was one municipality that did not have an Ethics Committee. Listening to the presentation, she had become aware of the importance of councillors being trained in the details of the Code of Conduct, as they made mistakes when filling out forms because they did not understand what they should disclose and what the issues were pertaining to the disclosure.
Mrs Van Wyk, Registrar of the Members Ethics Committee for the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, wanted to know if the position of IC was a full time position. She also wanted to know why the Ethics Committee was not an external committee, or did not consist of external investigating officers.
Ms Mahomed replied to the first question about the luncheon, saying that although the question seemed lighthearted, there was actually more to the question than it might seem, because there were pens that were worth R25 000, and if the Member had said that he would require a pen worth R25 000 in order for that student to go to Cuba, that would have been a problem. So when a public official did the work of their constituency they needed to consider the impact that the gifts they received would have on their constituencies and their public reputation. That needed to be the key in deciding whether they needed to publicly disclose these gifts or not.
Regarding external investigators, people from outside of public office did not necessarily understand the context of the work or the sensitivities that were involved, and that was why the Ethics Committee was an internal one.
Dr Mgijiwa said that being an IC was not a full time job. He liked the idea of shared services, as that would allow matters of misconduct to be dealt with more quickly and prevent them from festering.
Co-Chairperson Masondo said that in many countries there was a recognition that religion played a specific and important role in society regarding good moral standards. In South Africa, there were many religions and the leaders of these religions should be used to reinforce the Ethics Committee. What Members should do was identify the positive elements in society, such as religious leaders, and use them to reinforce the efforts of the Ethics Committee.
Something that the Committee would have to engage with as it moved into the future was the fact that the Code of Conduct should not be viewed merely as a technical matte,r as it was also a deeply political issue. Unethical behaviour by public officials had implications for society and such behaviour alienated public officials from the communities that they were supposed to serve. Public officials should never take it for granted that what happened in their institutions spilled over into society. It was not only the public’s image of certain individuals that was tainted when misconduct was found, but it affected the public’s support of the whole political party. Any blunder an individual made led to other problems and affected others.
Every revolution had had to look at the issue of ethics, especially after national liberation struggles had been won. Clearly there were a lot of political officials who attempted to plaster over problems related to ethics. It was therefore necessary for the Ethics Committee to firstly acknowledge that these challenges were present and secondly to provide meaningful responses to these challenges. The Ethics Committee had to address the challenges that were present because issues that were not dealt with would have serious implications. When members of a public official’s constituency stopped talking to the official and stopped coming to their meetings, they must know that their public reputation was not very good and that they were in trouble with their constituents. When their constituents stopped engaging with them altogether, they had to realise that they were in deep trouble.
Co-Chairperson Masondo said that it was a question of the masses of South Africans, because the masses were never wrong or stupid -- they would serve as the final arbiters on issues that affected them. It was important for public officials to understand that. Those delegates that had been involved in the liberation struggle knew the saying, “the masses were never wrong” and that this was similar to the saying that “the customer was never wrong”. He asserted that there was no “in between” about it. Those issues that were making the masses unhappy needed to be addressed, because the masses were never ever wrong and he could cite many examples of this. He asked delegates if they had any more comments and reminded them that the Committee still needed to get their reports on the key things that the Committee was doing.
Mr Magoje, Councillor for the Dr Ruth Segomotso Mompati District Municipality, asked what councillors should do in instances where there were instigators in a community who were good at stirring up the masses, and these instigators were telling the community something different to what councillors were telling them.
Mr Masondo replied that even if there were people who were stirring up communities to use these communities to deal with their personal grievances, councillors still needed to deal with the issue, in spite of what may be the objective view of the councillor and the subjective view of the community. He again asserted that there was no such thing as “the masses don't know.” He warned Councillor Magoje that thinking like that would get him into trouble. The councillor would need to find a way of sorting out the problem.
Mr Mdluli said that the challenge that delegates always had in their municipalities was that the municipality’s community did not know what was expected of councilors, and councillors did not communicate that to the community. A structure should be implemented in which there was a sharing of services among local municipalities.
Mr K Jubilee, official for the Dr Ruth Segomotse Mompati District Municipality, wanted to get clarity on whether the IC was the final person to make the judgment in the case of a breach of conduct.
Ms Mahomed said that some very good ideas had been raised in the discussion. Her office handled the disclosure of private interests but she thought that there should be more of a move towards public disclosure of assets and interests. She thought it would be very useful for those people who worked in the ethics sector to set up a quarterly meeting to share experiences and to come up with some ideas, because they worked at different levels and had had different experiences. She then asked Dr Mgijima to respond to the political issues raised by delegates.
Dr Mgijima replied that the Integrity Commissioner was the final person who made these judgments. The Integrity Commissioner needed to be impartial and independent so that it was assumed that when he or she investigated a matter that they would not take sides in terms of parties and politics. The IC reported and recommended to the Ethics Committee, and those recommendations may be about various things such as remedial action. The Ethics Committee then deliberates on the report and writes its own report, which is tabled. The Integrity Commissioner also has a report of the Committee that is tabled for adoption in the House. The Ethics Committee poses questions to the IC, but makes its own decisions.
Mr Magoje said that because the report of the IC still needed to be subjected to the approval of the Ethics Committee, this could result in two reports -- one from the IC and one from the Ethics Committee. He asked how situations in which the Ethics Committee had more than two reports were dealt with politically, and which report would carry more authority. He asked if there was a precedent for such instances.
Mr Masondo replied that the Committee should decide. He said that this question was very important and there could be two, three or four different reports created through the process, and delegates needed to know how the Committee managed its affairs and ensured that it emerged with one report.
Mr Magoje said it should not be allowed that there could be two reports.
Mr Masondo replied that there was no way that the Ethics Committee could allow one individual to decide on these matters, and it was important to try and ensure that the Committee spoke with one voice.
Dr Mgijima replied that having different reports actually strengthened the Ethics Committee, as it meant that it was not just the opinion of an individual that was being drawn upon, but rather the expertise of a few people. However, the Ethics Committee did not investigate and report to the House without an independent view. He also said that the COCE was designed to speak to the integrity of individuals within public office.
Mr Magoje said that there should only be one report from both the Integrity Commissioner and the Ethics Committee.
Ms Mahomed said that she wanted to make one very short point and say that the idea of the shared services really did help. She thought that the model of having an external Ethics Committee was difficult as the members of such a Committee would be removed from the situations and contexts that they were dealing with.
Mr Masondo asked the Provinces to give their reports, starting with Mpumalanga.
Mr Mdluli said that he wanted to discuss three things. One was that the budget of the Committee should be increased. Secondly, a turnaround strategy should be key. A public official needed to realise that if he or she commited ethically inappropriate behaviour, he or she would be dealt with within a few days. At present it took a long time to deal with breaches of conduct and public officials therefore thought that they could get away with them, as they thought that the Ethics Committee would forget about them.
He asked whether it was possible to have a system that automatically gave members a rating for ethical behaviour. His municipality would try and develop it and would then show it to the Ethics Committee. A Member would then be able to see for himself if he was complying with the Code of Conduct. Different elements of the Code could be included and could add up to a rating of 100%. Inputting a rating for each of the elements could then allow calculation of an overall ethical rating.
Mr Girtz Nkethu, Speaker of the Fezile Dabi District Municipality, provided the report for the Free State. He remarked on the fact that delegates seemed to see the COCE as a technical issue in which they just had to tick the boxes to say whether they had to make disclosures or not. In that regard, municipalities were really not up to scratch in terms of creating a moral and ethical environment in which they conducted their behaviour, and this was important to safeguard the integrity of public offices.
A second issue related to councillors not being present to do the work that they needed to do in their municipalities. Councillors needed to think of any work that they did as councillors as critical work. The Code of Conduct of councillors and the standing rules of ethics committees for municipalities should be considered comprehensively and monitored by the Ethics Committee.
Ms Van Wyk said that the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature wanted to broaden the scope of their Ethics Committee, but that the budget was not big enough. The Northern Cape Provincial Legislature was in desperate need of workshops to bring its municipalities on board. She hoped that Dr Mgijima could assist and play a role in the establishment of the ethics forums at district level. The Ethics Committee needed to determine the role of the officials and the politicians at a district and municipal level. They would also gain from some international exposure and from Canada’s experience.
Mr Magoje said that the exercise of conducting these workshops was not in vain, as this was knowledge that was needed by delegates, particularly at the local level. It had given delegates exposure to issues of moral and ethical conduct and alerted them to the need to, if not establish Ethics Committees, then at least have some way of ensuring that there was due compliance to the Code of Conduct. It also needed to be maintained in a very regular way, because sometimes it seemed that the Ethics Committee simply wanted public office bearers to submit their declaration forms without educating the politicians on what they needed to do and how to correctly complete those forms.
The invitation to attend these workshops was for district municipalities, who would have to go back and feed back the information to speakers of local municipalities so that the municipalities could perform better in terms of ethical conduct. He asked if it was possible to invite presentations from the Integrity Commissioner and the Ethics Committee to the local municipalities, so that the information that the delegates had just had access to would also be available to the public officials in local municipalities.
Mr Nkethu said that having the IC and Ms Mohamed visit their provinces would be crucially important in allowing the provinces to take a step forward in ensuring that delegates preserved the culture of integrity and ethical behaviour within themselves.
Mr Masondo said that he would make a few comments before adjourning the meeting. The first point was that the Members should consider drafting a very short report of the discussions that had been held in the workshops, and he hoped that Members had kept their notes so that they could do this.
The second issue that he wanted to raise was that there needed to be a sense of a plan which would have three elements to it. The first element was that there needed to be an understanding of the challenges that the Committee might face. Many of the challenges had been raised in the discussions and the delegates needed a sense of how these matters should be dealt with going forward. It was not enough to simply recognise these challenges -- Members needed to be convinced that these were things that needed to be addressed.
The third point was that the Ethics Committee should not become merely a debating society. While there was nothing wrong with a debate, the Ethics Committee needed to be able to supply responses to challenges beyond just identifying them. This was the kind of action plan that was required going forward.
Then there was the issue of alignment. What was very clear was that delegates needed to find a way of aligning the work of the Ethics Committee and taking it to the provinces and municipalities, as some municipalities had no Code of Conduct document. If he was asked the question of what needed to be done if there was a breach of conduct, he could immediately consult the Code of Conduct document for the answer. However, those municipalities that lacked this document were not able to do this. It was therefore difficult for those municipalities to deal with breaches of conduct in a systematic manner as they lacked the structures that enabled them to do so. The Committee therefore needed to overcome that gap. There must be a Code that everyone subscribed to, not only some groups in some provinces. This was what needed to be done going forward.
The Code of Conduct document might not be perfect the first time it was drafted, and it may have its own problems, but it was necessary to ensure that all public officials spoke with one voice on issues related to ethical conduct. Some of the ideas that would be included in the Code of Conduct document were already in legislation, as the law already prohibited public officials from doing particular things. For example, a mayor of a municipality could not give all municipal tenders to a company that he owned. The law already prohibited that kind of thing. So the drafting of a common Code of Conduct could even start with consideration of the law. It was not the aim of the Ethics Committee to condemn Members or fight with them, but rather to ensure that everyone worked together in the same direction. Members needed to see it as an instrument designed to assist them and work with them, rather than against them.
Delegates had asked if similar forums could be held in the provinces, in which delegates from the provinces could meet and share ideas. The Committee had initially intended to do this, but it had been considered the less expensive route to rather get delegates to come to Parliament. The Committee needed to ensure further that the Code and the work that was being done in relation to the Code, was being done collaboratively, otherwise it would not succeed. The Ethics Committee must be seen as a structure and an instrument that was used to help public office bearers to comply with the Code and assist people to conduct themselves ethically.
The last point that he wanted to raise was that Members and delegates needed to meet with public officials from municipalities to share ideas, and they therefore needed to visit the provinces. The Ethics Committee had initially intended to do that, but the less expensive route had been to get people from the municipalities to come to Parliament instead. However, there needed to be further consultation with the municipalities, so the Ethics Committee should visit the different municipalities. If it was prohibitively expensive to visit each municipality independently, then one way of taking the work forward was for provinces to be grouped together to ensure that the Ethics Committee engaged with all of the municipalities. In the meantime, work in the municipalities must not stop, as a visit from the National Ethics Committee would reinforce the work happening in the municipalities.
Delegates had also asked if Dr Mgijima and other people at the national level could be requested to make themselves available to delegates to offer advice on issues of the COCE. Dr Mgijima had agreed to do this, even though his work in his Province was increasing.
Mr Masondo said he wanted to see the interactions continuing. If public officials considered the Code of Conduct to be a mere technical matter that was only about filling in forms, then they would not take it seriously. However, if public officials saw it as a broader issue and as something linked to the destiny of this country and its people, they would look at the matter differently, and not as a mere technicality.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.