Public Service Commission (PSC) Commissioner Michael Seloane has expressed concern at government officials who submitted their financial disclosure forms, but did not make full disclosure of their registrable interests.

 “This poses a serious challenge in the ability to manage conflicts of interest in the Public Service. The challenge is compounded by the involvement of some of the Heads of Department (HoDs) in the perpetuation of non-compliance with the regulatory frameworks,” Seloane said.

The Commissioner was on Tuesday, addressing a virtual media briefing on the Quarterly Bulletin titled: The Pulse of the Public Service, which covers the period 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020.

“There are SMS [senior management service] members who submitted their financial disclosure forms, but did not make full disclosure of their registrable interests.

“A total of 3 048 SMS members in the public service were found to have interests in companies. From this total 638 (21%) of SMS members did not disclose their interests in companies,” he said.

A further total of 814 (8%) SMS members in the public service did not disclose their ownership of motor vehicles, and 361 (4%) did not disclose their ownership of immovable properties. 

This includes HODs in both the national and provincial departments. 

“Some of the SMS members who did not disclose their interests are repeat offenders. They have failed to disclose their interests for more than one year in a row.  As repeat offenders, they ought to be dealt with more harshly when actions are taken against them. 

“The Executive Authorities (EAs) need to strengthen their resolve in enforcing full compliance with the regulatory provisions under all circumstances, and to dealing decisively with defaulting HoDs.  This would help in setting the tone from the top,” he said.

Conflict of interest

The PSC found that 1 508 (15%) of all the SMS members in the public service are engaged in activities that can be construed as posing potential conflicts of interest.

“Eleven cases of actual conflicts of interest were identified in one national department and three provinces. Two HoDs from Gauteng and Northern Cape were among the affected SMS members. 

“The relevant EAs must initiate investigations, for purposes of disciplinary enquiry in terms of the Directive on Conducting Business with an Organ of State, which was issued by the Minister for Public Service and Administration in January 2017,” Seloane said.

He said disciplinary action should also be taken if it can be established that SMS members intentionally ignored the call by the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, to cease conducting business with organs of state; or to resign as director of companies that are conducting business with organs of state.

“Particular focus should also be placed on determining how companies that are linked to public servants were able to conduct business with organs of state.  This should assist in identifying gaps that are there in the system and measures to addressing them,” the Commissioner said.

In terms of other remunerative work outside the Public Service, 382 (4%) of SMS members in the public service were engaged in the remunerative work. 

“Only 52% (199) of these SMS members provided proof that they obtained prior permission to do so in terms of section 30 of the Act.  The EAs were advised, on their discretion, to recoup from the officials who contravened section 30 of the Act, the amounts generated through unapproved work done outside the Public Service or to ratify such in terms of section 31 of the Act,” Seloane said.

SMS members in the public service received gifts to the combined value of R4 631 314,21 during the 2019/2020 financial year. 

“Some of the sponsorships that were disclosed are departmental sponsorships such as payment for travelling and accommodation, which benefit the officials, but not the departments. 

“The PSC is of the view that the Minister for the Public Service and Administration must issue guidelines, detailing which of the sponsorships may not be disclosed for purposes of the Financial Disclosure Framework,” the Commissioner said.

Improvement in submitting financial disclosure

As at the due date of 31 May 2020, the PSC received 9 792 (98%) financial disclosure forms out of a total of 10 032 that was expected in respect of the 2019/2020 financial year.  

“This was a 1 percentage point increase in the submission rate as compared to the 97% submission rate of the preceding financial year (2018/2019). This improvement in the submission rate was noted despite the challenges that were posed by the country’s lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“It is encouraging to note that there are departments that were able to achieve 100% submission rate by the respective due dates despite the challenges that were posed by the country’s lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commissioner said.

There are, however, 169 SMS members who did not submit their financial disclosure forms by the due date of 30 April 2020, thus, contravening the Financial Disclosure Framework. 

“Some of the financial disclosure forms, although submitted on time internally, were only released to the PSC after the due date of 31 May 2020,” he said. 

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