KZN is the most corrupt province

KwaZulu-Natal is the most corrupt province in South Africa, according to a Public Services Commission report released yesterday.

KwaZulu-Natal is the most corrupt province in South Africa, according to a Public Services Commission report released yesterday.

The report says government department fraud and corruption relating to unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure cost the country more than R21million during the 2007-08 financial year.

The report said losses resulting from criminal conduct such as theft also contributed.

But more than R8million of the money was recovered from officials found guilty.

But, an expert who has been following the PSC said this might have been caused by KwaZulu-Natal's robust action against corruption.

Other provinces might not have reported all the financial misconduct happening in their departments.

The high number of cases reported in KwaZulu-Natal was a result of the social grant fraud cases reported by the department of health.

The PSC reported, though, that there was a 17percent decrease in cases of financial misconduct in the 2007-08 financial year.

A total of 35 national departments and 108 provincial departments were involved in the study.

Of the 169 fraud and theft cases reported by national departments, 36percent emanated from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Though the total number of misconduct cases decreased nationally, there was a 0,8percent increase in senior management who were found guilty of financial misconduct.

PSC spokesperson Hum-phrey Ramafoko said this was a worrying trend.

"Managers play a critical role in the promotion and maintenance of sound financial management and they are the primary stewards of public resources."

The report also indicated that most of the people implicated in financial misconduct were employees at a lower salary level. These employees constituted 86,2percent of the total misconduct cases reported.

PSC said that of the 868 finalised financial misconduct cases reported, 709 employees (82percent) were found guilty.

Since the financial year 2001-02, the PSC has been monitoring misconduct reported by government departments to produce oversight reports on financial misconduct in the public service.

In the report, the most prevalent sanction imposed on employees found guilty was a final written warning. At the time of the report, 247 government employees had been served with final warnings for financial misconduct.

In the same financial year, 163 employees employed in the public sector were fired as a result of financial misconduct. This figure is just 22,7percent of the cases reported.

"Departments have a challenge in understanding what is entailed by financial misconduct," Ramafoko said.

"It is imperative that departments have adequate strategies and resources to deal with risk-associated financial misconduct."

PSC also recommended that government departments should ensure that debts are recovered because this impacted on their budgets and eventually had a negative impact on service delivery.

Professor Ivor Sarakinsky of Wits Graduate School of Public and Development Management said it was hard to see whether the government was winning against corruption.

"The reason why certain provinces have high cases of financial misconduct could be that they are robust in enforcing measures of reporting corruption," Sarakinsky said.

"The other provinces may have a lower cases because they have not been cooperative enough in giving information to the PSC."

The PSC indicated in its report that it faced challenges in acquiring data from some departments.

"Accounting officials at national and provincial departments should have the same understanding of definitions of theft, fraud, corruption and financial mismanagement," Sarakinsky said.

"We can use this data not as an absolute indication of the level of financial misconduct but rather to keep track of the patterns over a period of time," he said.