SPEECHES

Address of the Minister for the Public Service and Administration Adv. Ngoako Ramatlhodi, MP, at the Integrity Leadership Summit, 22 October 2015, Ballito, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal Province

Date: 22 Oct 2015

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province Mr. Senzo Mchunu;

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present;

Members of the Executive Council;

District Mayor of iLembe Municipality;

Public Service Commissioners;

Directors-General;

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for providing us with a platform to engage with you during this Integrity Leadership Summit. I trust that this Summit will provide all of us with the additional measures that would help us to achieve new successes in the fight against corruption and instill ethical behavior in both the public and private sectors.

This is important because, as we know, corruption is inimical to development. It constrains our ability to fight poverty, negatively affects economic development, damages social values and undermines democracy and good governance.

In the last twenty years, we have put in place laws, policies and programmes to root-out corruption in our society, established partnerships among the social partners and collaborated with regional, continental and international partners. Yet, more will have to be done to fight corruption. I am confident that this Summit will give more impetus to our on-going work and help all of us to overcome whatever weaknesses may exist in our programmes and systems designed to reinforce ethical conduct.

I need not remind you that when the drafters of our constitution came up with this supreme document, they had a foresight that ethical conduct should be one of the cornerstones in the Public Service. As such, Section 195 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires a Public Administration that is governed by democratic values and principles including among other things promotion and maintenance of a high standard of professional ethics.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Corruption is a global challenge which affects both developed and developing countries. When this scourge affects the public service, it is the poorest of our communities who are affected. Services do not reach the communities as resources are diverted to enrich the few greedy officials.

In the Public Service, a Code of Conduct has been developed - which is a value and rule-based guide to employees on the ethical conduct they must espouse, both in their individual conduct as well as in their relationship with others. The Code of Conduct is meant to give practical effect to the Constitutional provisions I have alluded to earlier on. The Code of Conduct calls upon Public Servants to:

  • serve the public in an unbiased and impartial manner to create confidence in the public service;
  • be polite, helpful and reasonably accesible;
  • not unfairly discriminate against any member of the public;
  • not abuse their positions in the Public Service;
  • execute their duties in a profesional and competent manner;
  • be honest and accountable; and
  • not to use their oficial positions to obtain private gifts or benefits for themselves.

I have high-lighted just a few of these standards but that does not mean that others are not important. I urge each and every public servant gathered here to obtain a copy of the Code of Conduct, familiarise themselves with its content, and above all abide by it.

Batho Pele Principles also set out the required levels of professional ethics in the public service in terms of service delivery. Batho Pele Prinicplies are the value statement of the Public Service - the actions of public servants should reflect these values.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2013 a Service Charter was signed with members at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council. The Service Charter represents a social contract between the State and public servants that sets out both partners' roles and responsibilities to improve performance through ethical conduct, enhance and fast track the delivery of services in an effort to improve the lives of our people. It particularly addresses the issue of remunerative work outside one's employment in the public service, acceptance of gifts and behaviour that is ethical.

In October 2013, Cabinet approved the Integrity Management Framework to further strengthen measures to manage unethical conduct and promote integrity in the public service. The Framework contains new proposals for managing conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of financial interests, gifts, hospitality and other benefits, and remunerative work outside the public service.

The Framework further proposes an establishment of ethics infrastructure in government departments. In line with this Framework, each department shall:

  • designate an Ethics Champion at executive level with the delegated authority to drive ethics and anti-corruption initiatives. Ethics Champions shall be responsible for their departments' ethics performance.
  • establish an Ethics Committee (or make use of an existing committee) to monitor implementation of the department's ethics strategy, and to provide oversight of integrity management.
  • appoint Ethics Officer(s) (depending on the size and risk profile of the department).

These are some of the commitments by government to realise the intention of professionalising the public service and attaining the aspirations of the National Development Plan that calls for a corruption free society by 2030.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Conflict of interest has always been an enemy of the public service worldwide. This is a situation where employees' personal interests conflict with their profesional duties. I don't have to remind you of the many reports by the Auditor-General which paint a picture of this situation in the Public Service. The Financial Disclosure Framework was introduced as a measure to prevent this situation. It is an important initiative that was put in place to promote good governance in the Public Service. The objective of the Framework is to identify any conflict of interest in order to promote just and fair administrative actions by officials in senior positions and thereby protect the public service from actions that may be detrimental to its functioning and that may constitute unlawful administrative actions as a result of ulterior motives.

I, however, acknowledge the short comings of this Framework in its current form. The most glaring one is that it does not apply to all employees in the Public Service, which has opened doors for officials at lower levels in the Public Service to exploit this provision of the Framework.

However, the Department of Public Service and Administration is in the process of amending the Public Service Regulations, 2001 to improve the effectiveness of the Financial Disclosure Framework and to address its shortcomings.

Among other things, other categories of employees in the public service will be required to disclose their financial interests.

Through the Regulations we will also strengthen the implementation of section 30 of the Public Service Act, 1994 which allows employees to undertake remunerative work outside their employment in the public service. It has been realised that remunerative work could pose a conflict of interest among employees but most importantly affect service delivery as employees concentrate on their private employment as opposed to their public service responsibilities. Measures will be implemented to tighten implementation of this section of the Act.

In 2013, the electronic system of submitting financial disclosure forms, the eDisclosure, was introduced. Honourable Premier, I have been informed that the Province of KwaZulu-Natal is one of those provinces who have fully embraced the system. Congratulations on fully utilising the system for the 2014/15 financial disclosure period.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When we realized that unethical behaviour does not only affect the Public Service but the whole Administration of government, we introduced the Public Administration and Management Act, which was signed into law by the President in December 2014. The Act seeks to provide a legal Framework for bringing uniformity in the key pillars making up the public administration.

The Act further provides that all employees in the Public Service must disclose their financial interest.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I therefore, challenge each one of you gathered here to uphold the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution and bring back the trust that citizens should have in government and the public service. Each one of you should strive to be a shining example of how a public servant should conduct themselves.

We therefore call upon all levels of leadership in government departments, to take seriously their responsibility in accordance with the Public Service Act to ensure that the conduct of their employees conforms to the basic values and principles governing public administration and the norms and standards set out in relevant instruments.

Deterrent measures should be applied to discourage unethical conduct among employees and most importantly those who are shining examples must be recognised accordingly through programmes such as the National Batho Pele Awards. The national ceremony to honor our best public servants through the Awards will be held next month in Gauteng and I trust that KwaZulu-Natal will emerge as one of our shining stars.

In conclusion, let us be the epitome of what all these Acts, Regulations and Policies require of us - an ethical and professional Public Service. As the Batho Pele Value Statement guides us as a Public Service, "We Belong, We Care, We Serve".

I thank you.


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