Original Research

Ethical violations: Shortlisting and interviewing processes in the South African public service

Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Maoka Dikotla
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 11, No 1 | a648 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v11i1.648 | © 2023 Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Maoka Dikotla | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 April 2022 | Published: 29 June 2023

About the author(s)

Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Directorate of Leadership and Human Resources Review, Branch Leadership and Management Practices, Office of the Public Service Commission, Pretoria, South Africa
Maoka Dikotla, Department of Information Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa


Background: Ethics, integrity and accountability in public service departments have weakened. These departments face ethical violations in recruitment, shortlisting, interviewing and appointment processes despite the presence of human resource management prescripts in place.

Aim: This study aimed to probe the level of ethical violations in recruitment, shortlisting and interviewing processes, and describe the challenges faced by human resource practitioners and panel members in South Africa’s public service departments.

Setting: Both the national and provincial public service departments of South Africa.

Methods: The study adopted the qualitative modernistic research approach. A semi-structured electronic questionnaire was used to gather views from 528 participants, including human resource practitioners and line managers serving as panel members.

Results: Ethical violations result in human resource practitioners and panel members being compromised, maltreated, victimised and bullied in the workplace. During recruitment, shortlisting, interviewing and appointment stages, abuses of power, undisclosed conflicts of interest and even patronage by political heads and top-and-middle management are acutely rife. Ethical violations inhibit the human resource functionary from building an ethical, professional and capable public service.

Conclusion: Ethical violations during recruitment phases are exacerbated by political heads and top management’s observable disregard of prescripts.

Contribution: This study will encourage management to consider human resource practitioners’ role in managing ethical dilemmas and galvanise employees towards maintaining ethics and jointly desisting from unethical practices.


conflict of interests; ethics; ethical violations; human resource practitioners; public service; management; political heads; shortlisting.


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