At Long Last, Post-Employment Rules for Public Officials Are in the Spotlight

Cape Times (South Africa), July 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

At Long Last, Post-Employment Rules for Public Officials Are in the Spotlight


Now that the ANC policy conference is done and dusted, there is an opportunity to move beyond the sound-bite analysis of recent days and think through some of the proposals which were made in Midrand last week.

While the "two centres of power" debate grabbed most of the headlines, there were equally interesting and important discussions on ethics, the economy and giving content to the thus-far opaque notion of the developmental state.

One of the ethical hot potatoes the ruling party has grappled with for years is that of the so-called post-tenure/employment restrictions for public officials. At present, there are no post-employment restrictions which apply to ministers or senior government officials, which makes the move through the "revolving door" from government to business very easy.

Post-employment restrictions have been defined as restrictions imposed upon those who leave, retire or resign from public office.

They are designed to ensure that such former public office holders derive no unfair advantage for themselves or for others from:

l The confidential information to which they had access while holding public office;

l Their former association with government; and

l Using their current positions to secure future personal advantage.

The incentive for putting private gain above public interest, while in office, is clear where there are no rules or ethical guidelines.

At the policy conference last week, the ANC stated that consideration should be given to "restraint of trade/business for some period (when one leaves office) with compensation". It was agreed that there should be "more transparency and accountability to curb the possibilities of current and post-office abuse for personal gain".

Post-apartheid South Africa has witnessed a number of initiatives intended to consolidate democracy and instil and preserve integrity in public office.

Laws requiring disclosure exist in the form of Codes of Ethics at the level of the executive, legislature, provincial and local government. But a few gaps remain in the anti-corruption framework.

Interestingly, one of the often-overlooked recommendations made in November 2001 by the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) report into allegations of corruption relating to the Strategic Defence Procurement Package ("arms deal") in fact concerned post-employment restrictions. The JIT report recommended that such restrictions be implemented. Six years later, the time is surely ripe for progress?

There are a few misconceptions about post-employment restrictions and how they would work in practice. For instance, despite what many sometimes think, such restrictions are not designed to deny those in government or other public office the right to earn a living once they have left government.

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At Long Last, Post-Employment Rules for Public Officials Are in the Spotlight
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