Public Protector calls for Ethical Leadership in Public Administration
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said Public Administration needs Ethical Leadership to raise the bar regarding integrity in public sector service delivery. Adv Madonsela spoke at the second Daily Maverick annual conference held at the Victory Theatre on Friday, 23 November 2012.
When speaking on the state of governance is South Africa, Adv Madonsela said that her speech will be based on the role and experiences of the Public Protector as a constitutional institution. She said the Public Protector was established to exact accountability in the use of state power and resources and should therefore be regarded as the voice of the people and the ear and conscience of the state. She said speaking truth to power is done in the interest of the citizens and those who exercise public power and control state resources and not to name and shame.
She said the 20 000 complaints of maladministration that were received by the Public Protector last year are indicative of a state in serious trouble that need to look in the mirror. These mirrors that the state has are the Public Protector, Public Service Commission, Hawks and the Human Rights Commission. “They should not tell lies to those in power nor be expected and encouraged to do so. They should be expected and encouraged to speak truth to power. That is what a good mirror does and this presents an opportunity for organs of state to mend their ways and thus gain public trust”. She said vilifying these institutions does not help as the Public Service to mend its ways but head for a cliff. She said the complaints received reflect service failure with regard to delivery to individual and communities on social security grants, social housing (RDP & Rent to Buy) and Unemployment Insurance Fund among others. These are key sources of service delivery unrests at local government level because when people seek service from government they should not beg or be subjected to ill treatment as they will decide to take to the streets to make their voices heard because they are denied their constitutional rights to services.
She stated that the investigation approach of her office is to find out what happened, what should have happened and to determine whether the discrepancy constitute maladministration. If maladministration is established the Public Protector will ensure that fair, firm and swift appropriate remedial action is taken. Adv Madonsela Protector told delegates that though her office is assigned by the Executive Members’ Ethics Act (EMEA) as the sole agency for the enforcement of the Executive Ethics Code, there is a growing worrying tendency to immediately assign another body to investigate an alleged Executive Ethics Code violation despite the provisions of the Act. She said this causes unnecessary duplication and has a potential of setting the integrity oversight bodies against each other. She said she and her team have therefore decided to engage their counterparts as part of our quest to strengthen synergies among integrity oversight bodies in pursuit of stronger checks and balances to promote good governance.
In addition, she cautioned government to say what it means and mean what it says around the issues of ethical governance, citing once of her reports titled “In the Extreme” where a public official took more than it was allowed by the handbook. She concluded by applauding The Daily Maverick on continuing the dialogue which is the essence of democracy. She said it is important for government to stay engaged in issues relating to ethical governance and ending corruption is state affairs and for society to keep talking about what is right.