Johannesburg - Corruption will not be tolerated in the public service, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said at The New Age business briefing on Friday.
Two elements fostered corruption in government procurement processes, she said.
These were the corrupter in the private sector, who Sisulu deemed "the most lethal poison in the corrupting game", and "a relatively vulnerable but greedy and potentially corrupt state official".
Another aspect of the problem was citizens who bribed public servants.
Members of the public who felt intimidated by law enforcement, for example, were often "ever so willing" to bribe officers to get what they were rightfully entitled to or to escape sanction.
Offering or paying a bribe was illegal and punishable by law, she said.
The department was in the process of launching an anti-corruption bureau to deal effectively with the problem which was a significant threat to the public service.
Sisulu warned the private sector to "think very carefully" before offering bribes because "the consequences will be very dire for the rest of your life".
She applauded the African National Congress for establishing an ethics committee to investigate allegations of corruption, and encouraged other political parties to follow suit.
Sisulu said her department had "massive potential, but its inefficiencies still hobbled it".
One of the department's priorities was to secure a good and lasting relationship with its labour force.
To this end, three-quarters of organised labour had already signed a labour charter, including a three-year wage agreement.
This would ensure that "public servants work a full day, diligently, conscientious and deliver services to the public on time".
Sisulu said the quality of public service people received was influenced by the fact that South Africans did not have a culture of complaining.
"The reason why [a public servant] thinks he is doing you a favour is because citizens are not empowered to say 'I will not take this'.
"...As a citizen you have the right to say 'I will not take poor service'. Don't tolerate it."
The public should also be sensitive to the fact that sometimes officials had to deal with situations beyond their control, and so the public should also be encouraging in such situations, Sisulu said.