by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE South African government is stepping up efforts to prosecute thousands of civil servants illegally receiving monthly social grants.
This crisis has peaked during the corona virus outbreak, which is the most severe in the continent, and whose response by government has been marred by widespread corruption.
Parliament recently revealed the extent of the problem, which President Cyril Ramaphosa said showed government still had a long way to go towards instilling a culture of ethics in the public service.
He noted earlier this year, it was also found that around 16 000 employees on the government payroll were irregularly paid the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant.
Applicants with other sources of income do not qualify for this grant.
Some 17 000 people employed at national and provincial government submitted applications in a bid to top up their salaries with the money meant for the poor.
Ramaphosa warned action was being taken against the errant civil servants.
“Government is now stepping up its efforts to prevent this kind of abuse and act against anyone in the public service involved in wrongdoing,” Ramaphosa said on Monday.
Earlier in September, government launched a new Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit to build capacity within public bodies to institute disciplinary proceedings in cases of misconduct.
The unit is tasked with referring corruption cases to government’s Anti-Corruption Task Team and follow up with departments to ensure criminal cases involving public servants translated into disciplinary cases.
The unit will then monitor the conduct of lifestyle audits of public service employees. Where departments identify corruption and unexplained wealth, cases will be referred to the South African Police Service.
Ramaphosa said the new unit had begun its work “in earnest” helping to identify public servants involved in cases related to COVID-19 procurement, the special COVID-19 grant and Unemployment Insurance Fund fraud.
“The cases of government officials referred by the Special Investigating Unit for disciplinary action will be monitored by the unit to assess their progress,” Ramaphosa assured.
He said as the administration worked to end corruption, there must be equal focus on inculcating ethical behaviour among public servants.
“Building an ethical, capable state continues to be a focus of this administration,” Ramaphosa said.
He conceded that amid a number of scandals involving public servants illegally benefiting from the state, the process would be difficult and will take some time.
“We are nonetheless committed to stay the course,” he said.
Ramaphosa has had a torrid time dealing with some members of his cabinet and office fingered in corruption since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Among these are Zweli Mkhize, the now-dismissed and under probe health minister, and the-then presidential spokesperson, Khusela Diko, who has been cleared.
– CAJ News