Public Protector lauds public service and calls on civil servants to promote good governance and ethical leaderships
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said on Tuesday that the public service was a noble profession that operated on the basis of trust and good faith.
She was speaking at the 7th Annual School of Public Management and Administration (SPMA) International Conference on Public Administration hosted by the University of Pretoria.
The conference focused on the how Public Service and Administration should be over the next 20 years, with particular attention on international competitiveness and local trust.
Public Protector Madonsela said the public service shouldered a key responsibility to lead the transformation of society based on the constitutional promise that encompasses an inclusive society based on social justice where each person’s potential is freed and quality of life improved.
She said the state’s key role was to regulate and ensure that all persons enjoyed equal rights and freedoms, explaining that, in the South African context and in many modern states, disadvantaged communities were provided with services that related to basic human rights, including social security, food and health.
Quoting the late former President Nelson Mandela, Public Protector Madonsela said even the most benevolent governments will not always do the right thing, adding that mistakes and self-interest might cause wrongdoing by governments. This, Public Protector Madonsela said, meant excesses that violated people’s rights or constituted regulatory lapses might occur.
“To limit such excesses, the Constitution stipulates basic parameters for proper exercise of state power,” she said, adding that these parameters includes principles of public administration (Section 195), the imperative to give constitutional obligations priority and diligence (Section 237), shunning self-interest (Section 96) and cooperative governance as envisaged in Chapter 3.
The Batho Pele Principles, said Public Protector Madonsela, expanded the regulatory framework that sought to ensure proper exercise of state power to achieve the constitutional promises.
In the event of the violation of the constitutional parameters, she said, the Constitution provided for checks and balances that hold state actors to account. These include tradition mechanisms such as the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary.
The Constitution further provided additional, innovative measures such as the Public Protector and the Public Service Commission, among others.
Public Protector Madonsela called on all public servants to start walking the talk on good governance and be exemplary in their profession.
“Let us start to match what we say with what we do on daily basis. People look at what you do and what you say,” she said.
Adv. Madonsela said it was only through good governance and sound public administration that a constitutional promise of a better life for all and a freed potential of each person could be achieved.
The Public Protector further said by delivering on the constitutional promises without any delay, the lives of the people would be bettered and less people would resort to crime.
She called on state decision-makers to always put the people’s interest first over the personal interest, arguing that this would create trust between the state and the public it serves.
Responding to questions from the delegates on whether the public service was corrupt, Public Protector Madonsela explained that the public sector was not corrupt but had few people who were corrupt. She lauded public servants who worked tirelessly and beyond the call of duty to ensure that people received services.
She dispelled insinuations that the country’s democracy was in “trouble”, explaining that South Africa’s democracy was not in trouble but had troubles which could be fixed.
The Public Protector appealed to those exercising public power to accept fair criticism and scrutiny, arguing that this strengthened constitutional democracy.
She joined the country and the entire sporting world in paying tribute to slain Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa and, athlete Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who died in a tragic car accident.
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