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South Africa: National Good Governance Week Commences
Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201210160583.html
Source Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Country: South Africa
Created: Oct 23, 2012

Among those attending the opening session of the two-day conference were the Minister of Cooperative Governance Richard Baloyi, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Nel, the Vice Chancellor of University of South Africa (Unisa) Prof. Mandla Makhanya, the Ambassador of Germany to South Africa Dr. Horst Freitag and the Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission Advocate Lawrence Mushwana.
In her opening remarks, the Public Protector said the people of South Africa would also not be able to attain the society they sought to transform themselves into when they did away with the apartheid state if the character of the modern South African state was not in line with the constitutional architecture.
"That society is the one defined in the preamble of our constitution as a one based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and a society where the quality of life of all citizens is improved and the potential of each person is freed," she said.
The Public Protector also spoke against those in state affairs who she said did not want to be told they were making mistakes. She said such people's response to criticism was to turn the table on those pointing to the wrongdoing, misleading the public into believing that that the critics were the ones in the wrong.
"Unfortunately, that is often the response to the feedback the institutions supporting democracy, such as the Public Protector, get from those that wish to be left alone to 'eat for the people'," the Public Protector said.
She said such responses were advanced when attempts were being made to stop the looting of public resources through fraudulent practices that often led to the awarding of tenders to risky entities that could not pay when things went wrong.
The Public Protector said such answers were put forward when questions were being asked about unplanned projects that surfaced out of nowhere, diverting resources from approved projects.
She said oversight agencies needed to work together to avoid occurrences where incidents of maladministration went unnoticed, explaining that when such agencies worked in silos certain elements of bad administration often fell through the cracks.
The Public Protector said a common understanding of the concept of good governance in state affairs and a shared approach to clean administration were a necessity if the agencies were to triumph in their efforts.
"This is important so that we don't have a situation of forum shopping, where members of the public throw too many matters towards one institution on account of it being seen as exercising strict scrutiny," she said.
"We also do not want a situation where some organs of state do all in their power to divert matters to certain institutions they consider to be more lenient."
Regarding a common understanding of the concept, the Public Protector oversight bodies such as her office and the Auditor General, among others, did not have to be the lone voices in pointing to the manner in which the affairs of municipalities were being managed.
There should be a national consensus on the right way to do business and the wrong way to do business in state affairs, the Public Protector said, adding that it couldn't work if the standards were seen as those of the Auditor General or her office.
She said the test against which the conduct of any organ of state was weighed had to be one that was shared as the right way to manage the affairs, including rights and resources of South Africans.
Also speaking at the conference, Minister Richard Baloyi called for adherence to the Batho Pele principles, saying they were central to the ideal of ethical governance and a responsive service delivery.
Deputy Minister Nel emphasised government's support for institutions supporting democracy, saying bodies such as the Public Protector were not only critical instruments for good governance in the democratic South Africa but that they also occupied a central place in the transformation of the public service by rooting out arrogance, secrecy and corruption that were rampant during apartheid.
Quoting playwright Bert Brecht, Ambassador Freitag said "if government disapprove of what the people do, let the government go and elect itself another people."
Among other activities that will characterise the focus week include a public lecture at Unisa on Tuesday night and workshops at institutions of higher learning across the country; nationwide unannounced visits at identified public service delivery points; visits to schools; interactions with rural communities and outreach visits to shopping centres.
The National Good Governance Week aims to raise awareness regarding the need for a collective consciousness of good governance; understanding of importance of good governance in ensuring responsive service delivery; and understanding the importance of ethical leadership in ensuring good governance and integrity in state affairs among other things.
The campaign, which is the brainchild of the Public Protector and on its third year, has been escalated to a national event to include other oversight bodies, civil society bodies and organs of state. It also seeks to strengthen synergies in the work of governance oversight bodies.
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