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Intensifying the fight against corruption

T

he fight against corruption is intensifying. In 2018, we have seen a number of government officials being arrested for the crime. In March, nine government officials were arrested in a raid by anti-corruption teams from the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Correctional Services, led by the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit. At local government level, the latest breakthroughs have been the arrest of 10 suspects in the Harry Gwala District Municipality and the arrest of seven corrupt traffic officials in Limpopo and the Western Cape.

These are just a few examples of the progress made in this critically important area, but the fight is far from over. Government is placing a renewed focus on enforcing South Africa’s various anti-corruption legislations and implementing strategies to root out corruption.

Background of corruption

During the apartheid years, corruption was entrenched in the National Party government, with white patronage being a feature of employee appointments and funds being used for purposes that would benefit the ruling party. State security agencies and police were particularly involved in corruption, supported by the culture of secrecy which cloaked their activities.

This corrupt culture also extended to local chiefs and public servants in the homelands. This has all played a role in shaping the nature of corruption in South Africa and also required the democratic government to take on the significant task of developing new legislation that could properly address corruption for the first time.

Robust legislation

Recognition of the rule of law, and the accountability and transparency of government, are founding principles of the Constitution. South Africa has robust anti-corruption legislation, with the most prominent being the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, introduced in 2004. The Act recognises that corruption is “particularly damaging to democratic institutions, national economies, ethical values and the rule of law” and that an integrated, multidisciplinary approach is required to prevent and combat corrupt activities.

The Act comprehensively outlines all activities that are regarded as corrupt and covers the entire spectrum of society, including all public officers, members of the judiciary and prosecuting authority, and private sector individuals. Offences such as attempted corruption, extortion, bribery, abuse of office and money laundering are all criminalised by the Act, while public officials are also required to report corrupt activities.

Other acts which deal with corruption include the:

■ Public Finance Management Act.

■ Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act.

■ Protected Disclosures Act.

■ Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

■ Promotion of Access to Information Act.

■ Public Service Act.

It is clear to see that South Africa’s anti-corruption legislation is extensive, and it is the task of government to enforce the Act, supported by public servants and citizens alike.

Broad involvement in fighting corruption

Within government, anti-corruption efforts are led by an Inter-Ministerial Committee comprising the Ministers of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency; Justice and Correctional Services; State Security; Police; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Public Service and Administration; Finance; Home Affairs; and Social Development.

Government’s anti-corruption agenda is implemented by an Anti-Corruption Task Team that includes members of crime investigation, state security and special intelligence units, as well as National Treasury.

Oversight bodies also play a critical role in ensuring the accountability and transparency of both the public and private sectors. The Public Service Commission, Public Protector, Independent Police Investigative Directorate and Inspector-General of Intelligence, along with various government and parliamentary committees, are important oversight bodies.

It is important to note that anti-corruption requires a democratic approach which also involves role players outside of government. Organisations such as the National Anti-Corruption Forum and Corruption Watch are instrumental in this space.

Developing effective strategies

Thanks to this collective action, we have seen improvements in the enforcement of legislation. Initiatives such as the National Crime Prevention Strategy and the Public Service Anti-Corruption Strategy (PSACS) were developed within the first 10 years of our democracy.

More recently, the Local Government Anti-Corruption Strategy (approved in 2016) is particularly important for fighting corruption at a local level and is supported by further anti-corruption strategies developed by provincial and municipal governments.

New strategies have been developed to build on this solid platform and further boost anti-corruption efforts. Currently in development, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) is the government’s main driver in establishing a national consensus about how we tackle the complex problem of corruption. After extensive consultations between government, business, labour and civil society, a NACS discussion document has been widely circulated.

The discussion document identifies the major challenges that need to be addressed to effectively fight corruption. These include:

■ Empowering citizens through awareness campaigns and providing better protection for whistle-blowers.

■ Building ethical leadership and a professional, citizen-oriented public sector.

■ Improving transparency of activities and use of resources.

■ Improving the collection, reporting and analysis of data related to corruption.

■ Developing and strengthening programmes aimed at tackling corruption.

■ Strengthening the capacity of anti-corruption and oversight bodies.

■ Ensuring that employees are adequately trained.

■ Improving cooperation between the various anti-corruption bodies.

The document identifies ways in which these objectives can be achieved and has led to the creation of a roadmap which will result in the formal adoption of the NACS.

Meanwhile, the continuing problem of corruption within the police is being addressed through the South African Police Service (SAPS) Anti-Corruption Strategy, which was launched in June.

Speaking at the launch, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole asserted the importance of taking action against corrupt police officials.

“The SAPS is well aware of the ethical dilemmas and ethical breaches within the organisation, and the implementation of this strategy will enhance and support the strategies already implemented to deal effectively with priority crimes,” said Sithole.

“The SAPS is a leading role player in the criminal justice system and cannot afford, neither will we tolerate any unethical behaviour or corrupt members within our ranks.”

The strategy will be based on five main pillars, dealing with the prevention, detection, investigation and resolution of corrupt activities. The SAPS Employment Regulations Act has also been developed and implemented, prohibiting SAPS members from conducting business with the state and the taxi, liquor and security industries.

Lifestyle audits

At the beginning of his term in office, President Cyril Ramaphosa asserted that lifestyle audits of ministers and other civil servants would be a key strategy for fighting corruption.

“It is time that we implement our resolutions on the conduct, also on matters such as lifestyle audits of all the people who occupy positions of responsibility,” said Ramaphosa.

Worked on by a task team comprising the Presidency, Auditor-General, South African Revenue Service, SAPS, Anti-Corruption Task Team, Public Service Commission and the Financial Intelligence Centre, a framework for the lifestyle audits will be introduced by the end of October.

“This will enable me to further apply my mind and will provide an opportunity to further consult before a final decision is reached on the nature, form and scale of proposed lifestyle audits,” President Ramaphosa explained.

Corruption is an issue of major concern for both the public and government. With various mechanisms currently in place, as well as a number of critical planned interventions, there is increasing optimism that this scourge to society will be stamped out one step at a time.

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