​State to discipline employees doing business with government

More than a thousand government employees who failed to resign from companies doing business with the state will receive notices of disciplinary action or suspension letters from the department of public service and administration from this week.

Tuesday was the deadline for public servants to resign from their companies under the new public service regulations, which come into effect on February 1.

“The good thing is we have a database of directorships held by the public servants, so there is no way of hiding it from us,” said Mahlodi Muofhe, spokesperson for the department’s minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

Four months ago Ramatlhodi issued a stern warning to all government workers either to resign from their directorships or from their position in the state.

“Among the measures we will take is to fire a person,” Ramatlhodi told journalists at the time.

One week before the deadline, he again warned state employees who failed to comply with the deadline that they “will be in breach of the Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations of 2016”.

“The minister calls upon public servants to remain loyal to their work so as to serve the South African public diligently and with utmost professionalism,” the department said.

The new rules extend to chapter nine institutions such as the Office of the Public Protector and Human Rights Commission. It also prevents any government official from accepting any gifts in an official capacity.

The regulations followed a report by the auditor general in 2013 that government workers were linked to companies that benefited from tenders worth more than R600-million.

At the same time, the education department revealed that 3 000 of its employees received government tenders worth R153-million over three years. In the health department, 235 employees benefited from government deals worth R42-million.

The regulations were amended after President Jacob Zuma signed the Public Administration Management Act in 2014, which also compels state employees to disclose their financial interests. At the end of last year, more than 90% of the government’s 9 689 senior managers revealed that they have private investments or interest in companies.

Although Ramatlhodi has vowed to follow through on his threat to fire government officials who do not adhere to the regulations, Muofhe said extensions had been requested and are still under consideration. But exemptions are not an option, he added.

“The types of extensions that were requested relate to employees who are finalising their resignation from government to go into the private sector full-time. We won’t be giving exemptions, however,” he said.

Ramatlhodi said the resignations and disclosures of financial interests would serve as a “mini-lifestyle audit” of public servants. 

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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