No mercy for non-compliant public servants - Zuma

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma says government will not tolerate any conduct by public officials that is in breach of the law or public service regulations.

President Zuma said this during his response to questions raised by political parties in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Congress of the People (COPE) MP Mvume Dandala had asked whether the government intends introducing policy with regard to public servants who have business dealings with the state.

The Auditor General recently released a shocking report where it was revealed that several public servants were doing business with government without following proper procedure.

"We view the report of the Auditor-General on public servants that do business with government without following proper procedures in a very serious light," President Zuma said.

He said he had instructed the ministers in whose departments such officials were employed to investigate the alleged misconduct.

"I have made it clear that where wrongdoing is found to have been committed, they must take the necessary corrective steps, including taking disciplinary measures against the officials concerned," President Zuma said.

He had also asked Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi to speed up the development of the Conflict of Interest Framework and to send it to Cabinet in the next few weeks.

The Conflict of Interest Framework is meant to plug existing holes in public service regulations.

Asked if he would support harsher measures such as criminal charges and expulsion of noncompliant officials, President Zuma said any measure would be supported as long it followed procedure and law.

"Harsher decisions have been taken in the past, what we saying is you do the wrong things, you receive the punishment in what ever way as prescribed by the law and the rules," he said.

President Zuma also did not rule out the possibility of amending the legislation to protect whistleblowers.

"Certainly, we need to strengthen the weakness in the law if there are and ensure that whistleblowers are protected," he said.

However, the President said the new Framework will not on its own solve the problems in the public service.

He said most of the wrongdoing occurs when public officials do not comply with existing regulations.

"I have requested ministers to ensure that public officials comply with the relevant regulations and laws," the President said.

On the question of whether South Africa had responded speedily enough to the current global economic crisis, President Zuma said South Africa has been hailed among the developing countries for providing leadership during the crisis.

"As a country, we have responded to this crisis with urgency and energy...we have managed to moblise all sectors of the economy, including to put in place a training layoff scheme as an alternative to retrenchment," President Zuma said.

While the crisis was likely to reverse some of the gains made by developing countries in recent years, it did provide an unprecedented opportunity for greater cooperation between the developed and developing world in finding solutions, President Zuma added.