Civil servants steal R300m in state cash

04 March 2012 - 02:15 By THABO MOKONE
Cash. File photo.
Cash. File photo.
Image: Reuben Goldberg

MORE THAN R300-million of public money was stolen by almost 1000 civil servants in the past financial year.

This is according to a report by the Public Service Commission (PSC) tabled in parliament this week.

The PSC probed financial misconduct in 39 national departments and nine provincial governments.

A total of 1135 cases of financial misconduct were committed by civil servants during the 2009/ 10 financial year.

Of these, 998, or 88%, were found guilty of taking R346-million from state coffers.

According to the report, only R44-million could be recovered, while R302-million was lost to corrupt activities by public servants, mostly junior officials.

The figure of R346-million is the highest recorded in five years - representing a staggering 346% growth compared with the R100-million in 2008/9.

Financial misconduct committed by senior managers increased from 40 in 2008/9 to 43 in 2009/10.

"The SMS (senior management services) members have the power to disburse large amounts of public funds, hence the cost of financial misconduct had risen ... this shows a disturbing trend among people who should be custodians of the public purse," said the report.

The government's senior management services comprise officials from director to director-general level and have powers to enter into contracts worth more than R500000 without putting them out to tender.

The report indicates that 489 thieving officials were slapped with final written warnings, while 214 were fired and a further 245 are facing criminal charges.

However, the PSC slammed the government for not robustly pursuing criminal prosecution.

"Failure to institute criminal action ... may encourage acts of financial misconduct to continue to be on the rise," said the report.

"If departments ensure compliance with relevant legislation and instate criminal action against employees that commit financial misconduct, other employees who intend engaging in similar misdemeanours may be deterred from doing so."

Most of the fraud - 849 cases - was committed by government officials in provincial departments, while national departments were responsible for 286.

Civil servants in the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal also appeared to enjoy putting their hands in the cookie jar, as the province reported 259 cases.

Their counterparts in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape reported the least number of cases, 24 and 20, respectively.

At national government level, the Department of Justice emerged as the worst offender, reporting 93 cases of financial irregularities. The Department of Correctional Services registered the second-highest figure of 48.