Root out corruption wherever it exists

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Philosopher Edmund Burke famously said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  This too is also true for the scourge of corruption. If left unchecked it can consume our society and reverse the gains we have made as a young nation.

It diverts resources from our priorities such as healthcare, education, housing and the provision of basic services. Moreover, it undermines our democracy which so many of our countrymen and women had fought and even died for during the struggle against apartheid.

Even former President Nelson Mandela himself warned us of its threat.  “Democracy has taken root in our country and in our region, and with it have come peace and political stability. But all this will be little more than the shifting sands of illusion if we do not take decisive measures to strengthen the moral fibre of our nation,” he said.

We must all work together to root out corruption, the survival of our nation and values of democracy and freedom depend on it. In order to do so we need to overcome the notion that corruption is only a public sector problem and that government alone is responsible to rid this bane from our midst.

While the public sector is often singled out, corruption is in fact a broader societal problem to which the private sector and civil society is not immune.

For instance, last year a number of construction firms involved in corrupt activities were forced to come clean through a settlement agreement reached with the Competition Commission. They colluded to create the impression of competition by submitting ‘sham tenders’ in order for a particular firm to win.

These revelations turn on its head the perception that it is only within government that such fraudulent and corrupt activities can be found.

In cases of corruption within the public sector we must remember that it takes two to commit an act of corruption, for every act of corruption there is a shady business person who wants to pay off an unscrupulous public servant.

Corruption is not only bad for the reputation of the country but it is also damaging to the growth of the economy, job creation and the country’s overall development. The government is determined to root out corruption in all forms and is using every opportunity to do so.

On 9 December 2014, South Africa joined the global call to action against this complex social, political and economic disease that affects all countries, by marking International Anti-Corruption Day.

The fight against corruption is a global concern because corruption is found in both developed and developing countries and evidence shows that it hurts poor people disproportionately.

The recent Transparency International 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index confirms the concern; it recorded a global average score of 43. A score less than 50 means that a country is perceived to be corrupt.

South Africa’s rating in the Corruption Perceptions Index showed a slight improvement. The country scored 44 out of 100 - two points better than last year - which now ranks it 67 out of 175 countries.

While the report showed that corruption was a problem, it applauded the country for having made recognisable improvements in its fight against corruption.

The government introduced a range of corruption-busting measures as we build a more effective and capable state that can change the lives of people for the better. The fight against corruption is top priority of government and is receiving attention at the highest level.

In 2009 President Jacob Zuma’s administration heightened the fight against corruption when it prioritised crime as one of the five priorities of government.

Our Medium Term Strategic Framework intensifies our work with improved conviction rates for corruption cases and the revision of anti-corruption legislation with more stringent penalties. It recognises the need to provide greater protection to whistle blowers.

Moreover, earlier this year President Zuma  announced the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Prevention and Combating of Corruption, whose purpose is to oversee the work of state organs aimed at fighting corruption in the public and private sectors.

Our interventions are beginning to show that corruption in the public sector is being dealt a serious blow, with a number of successful investigations and arrests. Since 2009, 36 proclamations have been signed by the President authorising the Special Investigating Unit to probe departments and entities across the public service.

Our Anti-Corruption Task Team overseen by the Inter-Ministerial Committee has targeted the successfully conviction of 100 people for corruption where the amount exceed R5-million. It has also planned to initiate 150 criminal investigations of persons on serious corruption related charges involving more than R5million.

Other successes at the end of the last financial year included the start of financial and forensic investigations against 828 people. Criminal investigations were initiated against 322 people accused in 103 priority cases.

Furthermore, legal proceedings had been initiated against 206 people and the government has obtained orders against 68 people to freeze their personal assets valued at R1.381 billion.

While we are making good progress, we understand that more needs to be done to overcome this scourge. We need good men and women to assist us by taking a stand and not turning a blind eye.

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