Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
12 April 2011

IDASA media release on Minister Shiceka

IDASA MEDIA RELEASE 11 April 2011

Time for better guidelines following allegations of fraud and extravagance by Minister Shiceka Along with most South Africans, Idasa has learned with great disappointment of Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka’s alleged dishonesty and abuse of official travel and accommodation privileges.

If there is truth in these serious allegations, President Jacob Zuma has little option but to take the strongest disciplinary steps against his Cabinet colleague, and possibly lay a criminal charge of fraud against him. That he has admitted conduct that makes him guilty of extremely poor judgment, for which he seems unremorseful, adds weight to this imperative: Leaders are correctly held to a higher standard.

“Minister Shiceka must go”, says Idasa’s Judith February. “It is time for the President to take a firm hand against Ministers who bring South Africa into disrepute by flouting the guidelines and who may even have acted fraudulently.”

While this situation demands a quick and decisive response, one should not lose sight of the wider fact that executive self-regulation on matters of privilege is simply not working. The Ministerial Handbook, that is supposed to provide guidance for the effective management of public expenditure on these matters, continues to fail us all. The current reports are only the latest in a string of increasingly distressing excesses by the country’s leaders. The gulf between public expectations and ministerial lack of prudence and self-restraint is becoming a chasm.

The Handbook exhorts adherence to the laudable values of careful planning, necessity and austerity. But it is clear that we cannot continue to trust our political leaders to utilise their privileges with wisdom and compassion. The promised review of the Handbook is long overdue. Once again, the executive has failed to act with diligence and urgency to manage their privileges responsibly.

It is inadequate to rely on the Auditor-General to tell us afterwards that there has been abuse; we must prevent it. Directors-General, accountable to Parliament for expenditure by their Ministers, must be empowered to refuse permission for this wasteful expenditure. The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has been established by the Constitution to determine senior leaders’ salaries and pensions.

Perhaps it must now be permitted to determine the limits of public expenditure on executive privileges. We need to debate the options: either spending caps and clear rules to enable accounting officers to draw the line with authority, or far greater real time transparency of executive expenditure on privileges.

_______________________________
For further comment, please contact:
Judith February, Manager of Idasa’s Political Information and Monitoring Service, on
083 453 9817, or
Gary Pienaar, Senior Researcher on 082 541 4221

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