President Cyril Ramaphosa says that there is a long way to go when it comes to instilling a culture of ethics in South Africa’s public service. This comes after it was revealed that around 16 000 government employees irregularly received the Covid-19 R350 Social Relief of Distress grant.
The Covid-19 R350 Social Relief of Distress grant was announced by the government to provide critical assistance to unemployed South Africans during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa said “national and provincial government [empoyees] submitted applications in a bid to top up their salaries with money meant for the poor. Given the extent of need in the country, one that our public servants know too well, this wilful intent to steal from the public purse is unforgivable”.
He announced that the government has launched a new Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit. The aim of the unit is to build capacity within public bodies to take disciplinary action against people and hold them accountable for any misconduct.
Matlala Setlhalogile, a senior consultant at Tutwa Consulting Group says that the unit announced by the president was originally envisioned in the Public Administration Management Act of 2014. He says the public servants responsible for ensuring a capable public service are benefiting from the incapacities of the state.
He said, “the irony here is that these are the very people who are meant to ensure that the state possesses this capacity to do so to actually, be able to support people who are not supposed to be beneficiaries of such in the first place”.
Setlhalogile says that the initiatives mentioned by the president show that the government is aware of the incapabilities of the state.
He argues that corruption and the recent Health Departments Digital Vibes scandal exemplifies what is wrong in the country. He argues that when political appointees are implicated in corruption do not leave their posts, it creates an image of impunity. He says the absence of consequences or their lack of implementation has led to the growing trends of impunity.
“The reality is an example must be set from the top, if that example is not set from the top we're going to see the high levels of corruption persisting in this country for a very long time” concluded Setlhalogile.