Cape Town - Corruption in schools, where teachers and principals rip off state funds allocated to educate the nation’s youth, was the third-highest type of corruption reported to Corruption Watch last year.
David Lewis, the head of the independent organisation, which is a year old, described this as the “most disturbing form of corruption” reported to the organisation last year.
“This involves theft of funds, goods and equipment by principals and teachers,” he said. “Even more disturbing are cases which indicate that parents, through school-governing bodies, are also involved in corrupt awarding of (contracts).”
Lewis said fighting corruption in schools would be a key focus this year. “We are asking the public to tell us more about what is happening at schools with regard to corruption. We would like to… work together with communities to deal with this type of corruption.”
Corruption Watch was launched in response to the rising number of corrupt acts reported to civil society organisations, and focuses on the abuse of public money by those in the government and business. In a statement summing up the year’s work, Lewis said the organisation had received 3 223 reports last year.
While the corruption reports it received could not on their own be taken to represent the state of corruption in the country, they did give insight into the nature and ways in which corruption manifested itself in people’s lives.
The highest incidence of corruption was the abuse of power and resources by public officials, particularly in the procurement of goods and services.
There were reports of people channelling government money into their personal accounts, putting pressure on others to cover up their corrupt acts, and handing out money and food to secure votes in local elections.
Reports of bribery in traffic departments dealt mainly with bribery on the roads and corruption in the licensing of drivers. The highest number of reports on corruption came from Gauteng, the region where Corruption Watch had been most active last year.
Reports from small towns made up 42 percent of the total number of incidents reported to the organisation.
“It is the high number of reports from small towns that has been a concern. We believe that the reason for this is a lack of options and channels that people have for reporting and fighting corruption. There is limited access to media or to supportive NGOs and legal resources in those areas,” Lewis said.
Most people reported complaints using the SMS hotline (45 percent), and 34 percent reported on the Corruption Watch website.
Most people who reported online did so anonymously and left no contact details. Lewis said the disadvantage of this was that it limited the organisation’s ability to take the reports further.
“However, we understand why many of our reporters want anonymity, and we have committed ourselves to protecting our whistle-blowers.”