By Pinky Khoabane
Former Treasury Chief Procurement Officer Kenneth Brown left the department under a cloud following disclosures that he had had undisclosed deposits into his bank accounts.
In a complaint lodged by the Decolonization Foundation late last year and now being investigated by both the Hawks and treasury, Brown’s banking records between 2012 and 2015 showed amounts ranging from R23 000 to R206 567 which were deposited into his home loan account.
In June 2013, an amount of R206 567 was deposited. In July of the same year, R200 000 was deposited, then R60 000 and then R23000. In March 2014, his account was credited with two amounts of R50 000. The total amount over the period is R1million.
After 19years at treasury, Brown has now gone to work for Standard Bank – an institution with which treasury does a lot of business and as chief procurement officer he most likely had dealings with. He will join the bank as head of public sector. This is a clear conflict of interest.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) defines conflict of interest as a “conflict between the public duties and private interests of a public official in which the public official has private-capacity interest which could improperly influence the performance of his/her official duties and responsibilities”.
Traditional sources of influence include nepotism, gifts and hospitality but the notion of conflict of interest has become more complex. The more complicated forms include:
- a public official having private business interests in the form of partnerships, membership, investments and government contracts
- a public official leaving to work in a private company or a Chief Executive Officer taking up a key position in a government department with a commercial relationship with his/her former company; and
- a public official having affiliations with other organisations (e.g. an official sits on the board of a non-profit organisation that receives funding from the official’s department)
From the above examples, it is clear that Brown’s appointment at Standard Bank is a conflict of interest to which there’s been very little response from the advocates of good corporate governance.
At the time of the disclosures on monies that had been deposited in Brown’s account, UnCensored sent treasury several questions including whether he had disclosed these interests as required by law. Treasury didn’t respond to this question.
In December 2015, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Public Administration Management (PAC) Act which sets out the norms and standards against which public servants in all three spheres of government ought to conduct themselves.
The Act, among other provisions, makes a strong disclosure of financial interests and doing business with the state. Employees found to have done business with the state in their personal capacities or as directors of companies will be fined an/or imprisoned, or fired.
The Act was meant to promote a culture of high professional ethics in public administration.
One of the key issues in public administration ethics is a cooling-off-period for senior public servants. It ensures that public officials aren’t able to abuse their positions of influence by manipulating tenders to favour a firm which they are about to join once the government tender has been secured.
This cooling-off period seemingly doesn’t apply in South Africa. Brown is not alone. Former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s appointment at Stellenbosch University where Johann Ruppert, who has major influence in that university is another case. He is implicated in the Ciex which Madonsela was investigating. Former state prosecutors, Glynnis Breytenbach and Gerrie Nel are another.