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Members of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation have expressed deep concern about the high rate of financial misconduct cases in the public sector and the long period it takes to conclude disciplinary proceedings.                                                                       

In a meeting with the Department of Public Service and Administration and the Public Service Commission (PSC) in Parliament today, Committee member Mr Sejamotopo Motau complained about public servants placed on suspension for long periods of time on full pay, saying it was costly to the state.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a public servant on suspension with full pay for five years, it costs us a lot of money, we pamper people because we bring in politics in the workplace,” said Mr Motau.

The department told the members that disciplinary trends in the public service revealed that it takes too long to finalise disciplinary cases, something which is contrary to the enabling prescripts.

Acting Director-General (DG), Mr Willie Vukela, said in terms of the law a disciplinary hearing should be completed within 60 days and where there are appeals, within 90 days in instances where officials are on precautionary suspension.

“The diverse nature of cases and the legal intricacies involved sometimes make it impossible to set a definitive target date for the completion of disciplinary cases. In matters that involve criminal prosecutions, bail conditions that prohibit the employee from contact with witnesses sometimes hamper the conclusion of cases,” said Mr Vukela.

He said issues were further complicated by the lack of interaction between the beaurocracy and the prosecution to deal with the matters.

Another challenge, the Acting DG mentioned, was the lack of safety measures for key witnesses in fraud and corruption-related cases which also involves outside suppliers, especially in high-profile cases.

Ms Sellinah Nkosi, a commissioner at PSC, said the increase in the number of senior management members found guilty of financial misconduct was a worrying concern as “public sector employees are required to play a critical role in the promotion and maintenance of sound financial management in the public service.

 where officials are on precautionary suspension

She also said some of the reasons provided by departments for the non-finalisation of disciplinary proceedings on financial misconduct were: awaiting approval of the sanction by the presiding officer; awaiting the outcome of an appeal; or disciplinary hearing in progress.

“Whilst there is still room for improvement, there has been an overall increase in the completion of disciplinary proceedings on financial misconduct in the 2016/17 financial year, in that 1 150 disciplinary proceedings on financial misconduct have been completed and 574 were not completed,” said Commissioner Nkosi.

The Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, agreed with the committee that suspensions and disciplinary processes that take long to conclude have cost implications, health and well-being of those involved, especially if the suspension is too long.

“Sometimes we suspend people without fully applying our minds, suspension should be the last resort after trying everything,” she said.

Acting Committee Chairperson, Ms Regina Lesoma, told the department and the PSC to work hard in ensuring the speeding up of disciplinary proceedings in the public sector. “The priority of dealing with crime and financial misconduct must be taken seriously, there must be consequences and even when people resign it does not mean the case has to fall away,” the Chairperson said.

By Sakhile Mokoena
7 March 2018