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If the ANC is serious about fighting corruption, they will support our bill

Ian Davidson, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance
23 March 2011

Today I briefed the Committee on Private Members’ Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions on the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) private member’s bill to regulate the business interests of state employees.

The proposed bill is designed to address the continued scourge of corruption in the public service, which has reached alarming levels in recent years, by:

1. Prohibiting government employees and their families from directly or indirectly holding more than 5% of shares, stock, membership or other interests in an entity that does business with the government, unless approval is given by the relevant Minister in accordance with certain criteria set out in the Bill.
2. Ensuring that before the government enters into any contract with an entity for the sale, lease or supply of goods and services, the entity must provide an affidavit disclosing whether or not it is owned or part-owned by employees of the government
3. Requiring that all government employees disclose their business interests at prescribed intervals, in the same way that members of the cabinet already do so.

Corruption continues to undermine the effectiveness of the public sector, and remains a serious impediment to service delivery. Indeed, according to the 2010 Public Service Report, more than 1204 financial misconduct cases were reported to the Public Service Commission (PSC) during 2008/2009; while 1430 complaints of corruption were reported through the PSC’s National Anti-Corruption Hotline.

At the heart of the problem is the continued absence of restrictions on state employees doing business with the state. State employees, who have financial interests in companies and then tender for goods and services, have a clear conflict of interest. This invites corruption and abuse of state resources, which in turn undermines the fight against poverty.

The DA already passed into law the Business Interests of Employees Bill in the Western Cape in January this year. This will only further our track record of providing clean and effective government where we govern, evidenced by the DA-run Western Cape Provincial Government receiving a clean sweep of 25 unqualified audits – the first time in recent history.

If the ANC is serious about joining the DA in its fight against corruption it must take immediate steps to address the alarming levels of corruption which continue to beset our public service. This is the opportunity to do so. If they however, opt to use their majority to prevent this bill from proceeding any further than the committee (what they do to each and every other private member’s bill) then the message to South Africans will be clear: the ANC has no real intention to fight corruption in the public service.

The ball is in their court now and South Africans are watching.