Public servants fail disclosure test


The Public Service Commission (PSC) has released a damning report on public servants and their lack of financial disclosure, warning that hundreds of them may have potential conflicts of interest.

Business Day newspaper says the document, released yesterday, shows a sample of 434 senior managers who may have potential conflicts of interest such as having private business interests linked to their departments.

That makes up 21% of a pool of managers whose disclosures were interrogated. Of concern is that some of these managers have already been reported to the government`s national anticorruption hotline.

The document also reveals that only 48% of the senior managers, who are required to disclose all their registerable interests annually, did so by the cut-off date.

The paper says a number of public servants in national and provincial departments have been axed recently because of alleged improprieties.

The document confirms a trend highlighted by auditor-general Terence Nombembe earlier this month that little or no action had been taken against over 2000 middle and top government officials almost a year after he detailed their feeding off at least R600 million in public money.

The PSC developed a financial disclosure framework in order to minimise the risk of corruption. All senior managers have to abide by it.

The report says that since 1999- 2000 when the framework was introduced, compliance by many senior mangers had been far from satisfactory.

“Because of the mode of service delivery predominantly used by the public service, involving the outsourcing of the functions of the state with vast amounts of taxpayers` money spent on this, the risk posed by this lack of commitment to a key instrument for inculcating financial probity and combating corruption cannot be overstated,” the document says.

It says of the 37 national departments, only 20 submitted their disclosure forms by the due date.

Although this is an improvement from 2006-07 when only eight national departments complied on time, the PSC is concerned because departments which are slack are those involved in huge programmes and therefore have huge tenders.

The commission is concerned about late submissions because it has no way of “determining the risk of potential or actual conflict of interests and managing this in the intervening period between the prescribed deadline and when they eventually sign and submit their forms to the PSC”.

The PSC makes a number of recommendations to improve compliance with the framework.

These include that noncompliant managers be charged with misconduct and that departments appoint dedicated staff to manage the process of conclusion of financial disclosures, Business Day adds.

It also says departments should put in place mechanisms to manage conflicts of interest as required by various regulations. Officials should be reassigned where possible if a conflict arises, otherwise transferred.