Public Protector decries conduct of unscrupulous business people
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday addressed members of the Durban Chamber for Commerce and Industry, decrying the conduct of unscrupulous business people who engage in trade with the state.
The Public Protector spoke of emerging worrying trends in business dealings between the state and the private sector, saying such conduct could have adverse consequences for constitutional democracy and economic advancement.
Though she noted that the majority of business people hankered for a level playing field marked by clean state contracting practices and worked hard to earn what they have while adding value to people’s lives, the Public Protector spoke strongly against the few who gave the business sector a bad name.
Giving examples of overcharging, double billing, price inflation and conflict of interest as revealed in some of her investigation reports, the Public Protector said these emerging trends were threatening to erode public confidence in the state.
With public confidence eroded, the Public Protector said, taking to the streets, as seen in the “Arab spring” and local public protests, became attractive to sections of the population, particularly those marginalized in a socio-economic sense.
She called on players in both business and the public sector to exercise ethical governance through traits of ethical leadership, emphasising that leaders at any level should be in a position to distinguish between wrong and right.
Leaders did not need her office, the Auditor General, the Special Investigating Unit or the Public Service Commission to tell them that they had crossed the line, the Public Protector said.
“When you cross the line, which is possible because human being do make mistakes, you correct those mistakes on your own and if an oversight body red-cards you, you accept accountability without being grumpy or vilifying the oversight body concerned,” she said.
Turning to leaders within the public sector, the Public Protector said she had been amazed by the differences in ethical standards between leaders who accepted accountability for ethical violations relating to the abuse of executive privileges and those who told her it was their right “to be pampered.”
She also took aim at those within state affairs who failed to implement findings of expensively sourced forensic reports and reports of her office, the Auditor General and the Special Investigating Unit.
“That too erodes public confidence while missing an opportunity to exact accountability and restore controls. The key factor eroding public confidence is a sense of impunity, particularly for the so called ‘untouchables’,” the Public Protector said.
She commended the Chamber on its plan to establish an ethical leadership institute, adding that other sections of the business world in the country had also shown to be pro-good governance. These included South African Property Owners Association and the Business Unity South Africa, which had become a member of the good governance forum pioneered by her office.
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