The role of Public Sector leaders to rid the state of corruption and ensure improved service delivery

The role of Public Sector leaders to rid the state of corruption and ensure improved service delivery to the citizens of South Africa.

Leadership is a critical component of good public governance. Governance can be briefly described as the way in which the values of our nation as reflected in the Constitution of South Africa is institutionalised in government institutions. Section 195 (1) of the Constitution, 1996 stipulates that public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including a high standard of professional ethics should be promoted and maintained. These values must guide the actions of public officials throughout the system. They must be imbedded in the culture of government institutions. Ethical leadership and good governance are critical ingredients to ensure we improve the lives of the citizens of South Africa. Any strategy to get rid of state corruption should recognise the value of integrating ethics into organisation culture of government institutions.  Such a strategy will involve culture change which is very difficult, and it usually takes place over a long period and in response to a variety of powerful pressures.

Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations and is regarded as the latest important management competency. Research have shown that the ability of leaders of the organisations that blossomed in the economic melt-down of 2008/2009 to manage organisation culture, differentiated them from their opposition who struggled.  The importance of leadership as the driving force for ethical practices can’t be underestimated.  Basically, there are three basic principles that guide ethical leadership, viz.

  • Lead by example

    If honesty is a value a leader wish to instill in officials, model that behavior in all the dealings with all the stakeholders.

  • Setting ethical standards

    As a first step ethical standards should be developed to make the ethical values clear to all public officials. There should be no doubt in public officials’ minds of what are the acceptable and unacceptable conduct in the execution of government policies.

  • Compliance

    Once policies on ethical behavior are clear, the public-sector leader should monitor the conduct of public officials to ensure compliance with the ethical standards.  Quality information is needed on the degree to which leadership strategies have actually changed behaviour. Public officials should report ethical violations, conduct service delivery surveys to ensure the public’s experiences with public officials are acceptable. It is also important to appropriately manage the consequences of non-compliance and to reward compliance to motivate public officials to remain ethical.

Much work has been done by the Department of Public Service and Administration to build a professional leadership cadre in the South African Public Service as contemplated in Section 195(1) of the Constitution.   Compulsory competency assessments for recruitment and development of senior managers in the Public Service count among the strategies that have been introduced in this regard.  Other Public Service strategies involve Codes of Conduct for Public Service and Code of Ethics for all public servants.  Considering the work that has already been done in defining ethical standards, it seems that strategies to rid the State of corruption should focus more strongly on managing and changing the organisation culture of state institutions, monitoring compliance to the ethical standards and to act appropriately in respect of non-compliance.

About the author:

Francois Wilbers is the founder and managing director of Work Dynamics (Pty) Ltd.  He has more than 25 years consulting experience in the areas of assessments, organisation development, performance management and remuneration.


Improved Service Delivery

                           Francois Wilbers

About Work Dynamics (Pty) Ltd

Work Dynamics (Pty) Ltd is a black owned organisation psychology consultancy that was established in 1993.  The company service all the provinces of South Africa through a combination of permanent consultants and associate consultants.  Services of Work Dynamics include:

  • Assessments for recruitment and development (including skills audits)
  • Organisation development including organisation design, organisation culture management, organisation climate surveys, team development and change management.
  • Performance management
  • Remuneration including remuneration surveys, job evaluation, remuneration policy and incentive scheme design.

Work Dynamics served the public sector (national, provincial and local government) and private sector (various industries) organisations nationally and internationally.

Visit Public Sector Manager to download the full copy of the February 2018 issue.