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COSATU supports Public Servants Bill

Johannesburg 11 August 2009 Sapa

The bill to stop public servants from benefiting from business deals due to their government connections was welcomed by Cosatu on Tuesday.

"There should now be a national debate, not just in Parliament, but throughout society, on how to put a stop to this national scandal of public servants using their official positions to enrich themselves and their families," the union federation`s spokesman, Patrick Craven, said in a statement.

The Public Administration Management Bill, proposed by the public service and administration department, bans public servants from taking jobs with companies involved in or seeking business deals with government bodies.

It also enforces a "cooling off period" of one year after public servants vacate their government posts for them to tender for public works.

Craven, however, added that a one-year ban did not "go far enough".

The Sunday Times reported that chairman of parliament`s Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Themba Godi, described the one-year ban as "ridiculously short".

He told the paper government departments had last week showed their failure to deal with employees who were doing private business, referring to departments which appeared before Scopa hearings, and where at least eight were found to have lied and misled the committee about the actions they claimed to have taken against corrupt civil servants.

A fine of a million rand would be imposed on those government workers who resigned in order to join companies who received payments from public bodies they had awarded tenders to while still in office, Craven said.

"The urgent need for new legislation was exposed by the recent report by the auditor-general that more than 2000 civil servants and their relatives have been awarded tenders worth R600 million by companies in which they had direct or indirect links," he said.

"The federation believes that everyone appointed to a position to serve the people must do that alone."

He said the legislation should include scrapping tenders and awarding them to the next company - should it be found that an official or a member of their family was found to be benefiting from it.

This would negate the temptation to use official positions to advance business interests.

"Even if technically legal, if a public servant`s family members are seen to be benefiting from tenders for public works, it still creates a bad smell and the suspicion amongst the local community that there is an element of corruption."

Craven called for the law to be passed as soon as possible and for it to be "rigorously enforced".