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Legislation: Delayed anti-corruption law to be ‘operationalised’

Publish date: 14 February 2019
Issue Number: 647
Diary: Legalbrief Today

The 2014 Public Administration Management Act may hold the key to the success of government’s anti-corruption drive, suggests Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ‘operationalisation’ of section 8 has been prioritised with the aim of ‘strengthening’ measures in other legislation ‘outlawing’ a widespread practice among public servants involving ‘business with the state’. Expected to go some way towards ‘enabling government to deal more effectively with corrupt activities’, the provisions concerned will be used to impose ‘harsher penalties – including fines and/or prison sentences’ for officials found guilty of transgressions. The President gave this undertaking last week in his State of the Nation Address. In terms of section 8, a government employee may not conduct business with the state or be a director of a public or private company doing so. Anyone found guilty of an offence in this regard ‘is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years or both’ and may even be dismissed.

Developed under the watch of then Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the Act’s overarching objective is to ‘promote the basic values and principles governing … public administration referred to in section 195(1) of the Constitution’. It also provides for the establishment of a ‘public administration ethics, integrity and disciplinary technical assistance unit’ to which the President referred in his address. Once in place, according to Ramaphosa the unit will be tasked with ‘ensuring consequence management for breaches of government processes’. No mention was made of provisions in the Act empowering the Minister to ‘set minimum norms and standards for public administration’ and to establish an ‘office of standards and compliance’.

The President also spoke of ‘a suite of compulsory courses’ to be introduced by the National School of Government, ‘covering areas like ethics and anti-corruption, senior management and supply chain management’. Interestingly, the same piece of legislation not only provides for the school to be established but also for its governance – begging three questions. If the Act has yet to come into effect, what legislation informed the transition from Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy to National School of Government? What legislation guides the new school’s governance? And why was the Act’s commencement delayed for five years, during which time both the President and Lindiwe Sisulu served as Cabinet members?

Follow Pam Saxby on Twitter (@SaxbyPam)