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It is the national duty of citizens and public servants to liberate those enveloped in graft and the bondage of criminality, says Professor Daniel Plaatjies.
Maladministration, corruption and fraud are a menace to our young constitutional democratic society.
Corruptors and the corrupted don't care about gender and race or where geographically you come from. So strong and powerful is this menace with increasing levels of bribery and extortions in our society. Its manifestations capture our communities as accomplices or co-conspirators whether silently, and or by design or default.
It has enveloped the media where principled journalists pay for information to individuals in corporations and public institutions - that are in the public interest.
Goods and services are embezzlement in private companies and corporation by employees even where shareholders are aware of such practices. The literature suggests that embezzlements by their workers take place as a result of low levels wages and becomes almost like a form of redistributive justice.
Maladministration and corruptive practices include unwarranted and fraudulent payments solicited from citizens in search for a decision, service or action by a public servant and local representative. These types of behaviour are from a group of public servants who are the employees of the citizens through the state and Government. Public servants are also sometimes faced in transactional relationships with the question from potential corruptors or those already corrupted: money (brown bag) or bank always comes up?
Corruption corrupts the moral fabric and eats at the soul of society. Corruption has no respect or knows no political and social affiliation. Those who are corrupt come from all walks of life. It destroys our national moral courage and our legitimacy as a society, citizens and state. It demoralises the moral gains attainted through moral and century old struggle against the immorality of apartheid, colonialism and years of economic and political exclusion. Thousands to millions of our citizens have benefited from the oppressive system in different measures. Eschel Rhoodie a secretary of the apartheid department of information was involved in stealing, and then referred to as misappropriating state funds for secret projects around 300million around 30 years ago. Our historic tragedies continue to influence how we as South Africans define ourselves. Put differently, the architects of apartheid and those who participated in this system, whether in the apartheid parliament, Bantustans, businesses, and various circles of the social construction of apartheid were compliant in the moral corruptness of system. Colonialism, a historic tragedy of our country has its own story about how certain citizens became wealthy compared, to the indigenous people.
In various communities where we grew up as members of families and households as community dwellers, as neighbours, and within the factories and places of work - our bosses and various associates are either willing participating or ignoring corruption taking place.
In areas where gangsterism is a daily criminal and social problem, many communities, including those in the service of the people, ignores the system of informal rewards. These rewards to our citizens in communities' works in various ways: allowing certain members to freely roam the streets during the day, especially at night without been in danger; and the sharing of financial rewards acquired from criminal, especially with the poor and desperate - all in exchange to consent to remain silent and voluntary amnesia about witnessed criminality.
Word goes in communities such as the Cape Flats in the Western Cape and Eldorado Park in Johannesburg that organised crime is being restructured by criminals to take control of local communities. Proceeds of crime are invested in legitimate businesses, in property markets, in security firms, and even contesting the procurement processes for government business contracts. In local government elections there were community members even making claims that criminal syndicates are sponsoring independent individuals to take part in political elections, including moves to establish legally, political parties. Breaking this phenomenon comes to nothing without breaking this grip on communities. Nobody is safe in our country if we, the citizens as a collective, with Government don't mobilise against criminality and support concretely the detection, prevention and investigation by the constitutional and legitimate safety and security establishments.
Our township mothers used to say - it takes two to tango in the corruption dance. For years our nation's biological and political parents have warned us about the tango - the leader (corrupter) and the corrupted (follower). The corruption tango - a vibrant, hard to soft dance of criminality on all accounts - is about a desire to listen, understand and communicate about the corruption to undertaken. Indeed, the dance takes place in the form of a range of proceeds from gifts to funds and lunches, including various forms of secured share of interests in business assets. Fighting this scourge must happen across the face of our society.
In Government, multiple interventions and agencies are in place. Some agencies are facing numerous structural and functional challenges. Notwithstanding, something is been done. Whether these agencies are multiple and keeping a watch-full eye over each other does not matter as long society benefits. Also, as long as our sovereignty as a country and state, and our social, legal, political and economic integrity is insulated and protected, we are all winners. As such, we obligated and especially the Government must simply find ways to resolve the conflicts within the economic and political hierarchy of society.
Multiple agencies of the state in fighting corruption and fraud are definitely not new. Democratic to communist states like Australia, USA, Britain, Canada and China and Norway have may focuses on different aspects of society and state working together in the fight against quiet and full-blown corruption and fraud.
That's why the establishment of a legal facility such a Bureau focussing on the inside of the public service proposed by the Public Administration Management Bill has to be considered as a welcomed addition to the Hawks, Special Investigations Unit, Asset Forfeiture Unit, South African Police Services and various agencies focussing on protecting the sovereignty and integrity of our state. These established institutions and agencies must continue to focus on the accumulative and high end detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct that wants to capture our democratic constitution state.
Numerous reports from Terence Nombembe, the outgoing Auditor-General and from investigations agencies show a number of trends in national, provincial and municipal government and public entities. These trends are fraud relating to the receiving of an undue benefits in respect of social grants, housing subsidies grants and false licences; financial mismanagement and misconduct in relation to public procurement; transgressions on the public finance legislations; financial mismanagement and misconduct on contract management and specifically services rendered; corruption on procurement processes; the non declaration of business interests by public officials; and officials doing business with national and provincial departments, municipalities and public entities.
The perspective that the whole of the Public Service is corrupt is wrong. The number of Public Servants involved in the various phases of corruption and fraud is not many relative to the number of around 1.6 million employees in the public service at local, provincial and national government.
It is the amounts and volumes of money stolen through state transactional relations with the private sector and investments by the state in the domestic economy - social and economic infrastructures - that is devastating. It is greed! It destabilises the fiscus. It reduces the amount of funds available for spending on social and economic infrastructure. It weakens our collective consciousness that we need to work hard to build South Africa, and in particular our communities, households and invest in our children. So, it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, living in a township or suburb - whatever the linguistic difference, as a patriotic citizen-servant it is the duty of the public service to protect our sovereignty. If it is not possible to be patriotic as either a citizens or servant for whatever rugged selfish interests then, it means that you don't belong.
Given the growing spread of this menace territorial concerns of misunderstanding by some 'opinion-makers' though unfounded in a congested criminal environment, is of less importance. For our citizens, at least, those that daily faces a lack of income due to unemployment, stubborn poverty and inequality it's about detecting and preventing the weakening of the fiscus. The want to see a corrupt and fraud free zone in the public service and servants.
This new facility proposed by the legislation of Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Public Service and Administration, focussing on ethics, integrity and discipline in the Public service is a critical internal organisation capacity within the state administration. Its focus on the supporting of all spheres and levels of government and its various agencies in the management of ethics, integrity and disciplinary matters ought to help the Government and our citizens in the protection of the integrity of the state. Protecting the state against potential maladministration, irregular and wasteful spending - normally a prelude to corrupt and fraud - within the public administration helps solidifying our constitutional values and principles. Moreover Chapter 10 of the constitution, obligates the public administration to put institutions in place that are competent to detect and prevent maladministration, irregularities and wastage within the two most vulnerable and critical utilities of government - public administration management and public finance management systems.
By all accounts this new legal institution focus on the internal organisation and potentially the characterisation of maladministration to corruptive behaviour in the public service - having the ability to influence and remove corrupt officials through unfettered disciplinary and grievance systems and procedures. Such moves improve public confidence, value and faith in the endeavours of Government. In fact, an Anti-corrupt Bureau in the public administration with a focus on public sector misconduct, initially targeted at the powerful - formal and informal - in the public administration will definitely begin to sterilise the public administration and public finance systems. Irregularities, maladministration or even a lack of compliance deprives the public service-delivery system from functioning. Dealing with and having the legislative authority and potency if and when adequately capacitated, is a powerful internal influence on the reorganisation of the public service and compulsory ethical behaviour.
This facility recommended by Sisulu must according to its functions in the draft Bill, collaborate with the institutions responsible for criminal proceedings. Our integrity as patriotic citizens and servants in the employment of the public demands that public leaders, economic entrepreneurs, trade unionists, educators in our schools, public servants, neighbourhoods - building our societal integrity. It is a national duty, in fact it is our 'constitutional conscription' to protect our sovereignty and thereby liberate those enveloped in corruption and the bondage of criminality. Societal integrity must be our new rallying call!
* Professor Daniel Plaatjies is a visiting professor of the University of Free State and an editor of publications on governance.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.