Minister Mchunu corrects wrong perception created by Media Reports
The Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu, wishes to address the incorrect perception that may have been arisen by News24 media reports, in respect of a response provided by the Minister on a parliamentary question. The question related to reasons for the disciplinary action, the period of suspension, the cost thereof and the reasons why the cases were not concluded in the public service. A detailed response was provided. In order to contextualize the response provided by the Minister and to provide a balance view, it is necessary to consider the following information, which was not included in the news article.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the Labour Relations Act guarantee that everyone has the right to fair labour practices. The Public Service is obliged to conduct disciplinary matters in a fair and expedient manner, where employee rights should never be compromised for the sake of expediency. Clause 7 of the Disciplinary Code and Procedure outlined in Schedule 1 of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Resolution 1 of 2003 provides the grounds for precautionary suspension. Such grounds are where an employee has committed a serious offence and there is sufficient reason to believe that an employee poses a risk at the workplace or to an ongoing investigation related to a disciplinary matter. Such risks are usually mitigated by removing the employee, through a suspension, from that environment.
In some cases the premature return of an employee, to the workplace may jeopardise any ongoing investigation into the alleged misconduct, or endanger the wellbeing or safety of the State and its employees. It must be noted that the Disciplinary Code allows for the suspension of an employee by the employer for 60 days. Any extension of this period is decided by the Chairperson and not the relevant department and dealt with on an ad hoc basis. The employer is bound by provisions in the Labour Relations Act and the Public Service Act which prevent the non-payment of or cuts in salaries during suspensions and disciplinary processes. It must also be noted that discipline management is a decentralised process and Heads of Departments have the authority to discipline employees. However, Government has a duty to ensure that processes are finalised expeditiously, within the confines of the law and rights of employees are not infringed.
As a commitment to a fair and expedient discipline management and in terms of Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), we have established the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (PAEIDTAU), to among others:
Develop norms and standards for the discipline;
Build capacity to initiate and institute disciplinary proceedings into misconduct;
Strengthen oversight of ethics, integrity and discipline; and to intervene in cases where systemic weaknesses are identified;
It must be noted that some disciplinary processes have been delayed due to a variety of factors, such as length and complexity of investigations such as forensic investigations; delays brought on by requests for postponement due to employees being ill and the nature and seriousness of the transgressions; bail conditions of the employee; unavailability of interpreters and witnesses; the lockdown period due to COVID-19. The Department is sets norms, standards, policy and monitoring thereof to ensure compliance.
Government is serious about punishing wrongdoing, as reflected by disciplinary cases and we commend Departments for taking corrective actions against errant employees. Although the figure of these cases is not as alarming, considering that only 230 out of 1, 2 million employees are affected, it's one case too many. Some employees have also won cases and returned to work.
It is important to ensure that reporters take time and acquaint themselves with these intricate process so as to produce articles that reflect the true situation.