OPINION: State, society and governance capture has eroded public trust

By Brian Mahlangu Time of article published Mar 13, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG – The widescale and broad scope of institutionalised corruption activities in public and private institutions may be construed as governance capture more than simply state capture as they transcend and spill over beyond the state to private institutions.

South Africans have come to realise they have misplaced their collective trust and loyalty in untrustworthy people who never had any sincere intention, ab initio, to honestly serve the public interest at all. Now South Africa is caught up in this networked web of corruption quagmire from which the country cannot easily extricate itself in the foreseeable future.

As more revelations of huge-scale corruption are made at the Zondo Commission, widespread networks of deliberate commission of corruption and ulterior motives and intended occasion of conflict of interest, involving both state and non-state actors in the government and governance system, continue to commit numerous maleficent activities that undermine the integrity of the macro organisation of the state.

The landscape of multiple corruption networks extends beyond the confines of the state actors as the state is said to have been captured by the non-state actors whose underground operations at a national, regional and global level have serious negative implications on the leadership and oversight institutions.

Their loudly pronounced commitment to enhance public accountability and good governance leaves much to be desired. Their involvement in acts of blatant corruption speaks more than their so-called pronouncements of loyalty to the constitution.

Some of the leaders appear to simply pay lip service to good governance.

When corruption on such a big scale happens, the questions asked by people are: Where were internal controls in these institutions? Where are the Parliamentary Accounts Committees? Are these institutions saddled with corruption not audited to discover financial mismanagement earlier? Why are these widespread incidences of corruption and fraud not detected on time? Does it mean that oversight institutions are blunt and ineffective in their resolve to execute their policy and legal mandates?

The extent of damage and loss of national resources through corruption have eroded the public trust and confidence in some leaders who are implicated in the Bosasa scandal and other similar sagas. It seems there is more than what meets our eyes.

But It is during these trying times in South Africa that genuine leadership must rise to the occasion and defeat the forces of darkness, who oil the wheel of corruption in both public and private institutions.

The pertinent question to be asked is: What impression does the state and governance capture leave to the world about South Africa, particularly prospective investors? The country will take many years to recover from the immense damage caused by state capture, and the legacy of the negative impact will reverberate across many generations to come.

The Zondo Commission, also known as State Capture Commission, Mokgoro Commission and other forms of inquiries on corruption, receive much media attention as part of disclosure and transparency imperatives and are happening at a time when the Presidency’s eminent panel of advisers are travelling around the globe to woo and convince the prospective international investors to plough investments and resources into South Africa for a good course of development with promise of good return of investments.

The huge scale at which the corruption networks’ activities operated conveys the unfavourable perception to potential investors that the oversight structures and their respective instruments have become blunt and ceremonial. Thus they are largely viewed as not adequately fit in terms of ensuring value for money and return on public social investments.

Among other governance implications is that the state is governed by or through commissions. The accountability and consequence management should be reinforced in order to ensure that all beneficiaries of state capture take a fall for their deeds and fall on their own swords.

This gesture will give valuable lessons to others. If there is inconsistency in meting out punishable consequences for those who are on the wrong side of the law in pursuit of corrupt activities, then it will be difficult to exert due punishment on the rest of others who are yet to be identified and confirmed to be beneficiaries of corruption.

The deep roots of corruption have been allowed to have a multiplier effect both in public and private institutions and in our society at large, to the extent that it has slipped out of state control.

It is now becoming clear that the government alone cannot succeed in eradicating corruption. It needs reliable and committed citizenry, which does not tolerate corrupt behaviour in both public and private institutions.

Fraudulent, corrupt activities of theft of national resources transgress the human rights of the poor in the country as the national resources allocated to stimulate and advance development projects targeting them are in some instances diverted to benefit the already well-off leaders and top managers of these public and private institutions.

In order to diffuse the deeply rooted culture of institutionalised endemic corruption and fraud, the judiciary system and law enforcement and intelligence agencies must be empowered and allocated the necessary resources and wherewithal to reverse the huge tide of corruption.

All structures of civil society and society at large must hold hands with the government and business to work in joint partnerships to eliminate all unceremonious and unscrupulous deeds of corruption in the public and private institutions.

The technical capacity of oversight institutions with their corresponding early warning mechanisms and risk management measures must be upgraded for them to be able to detect some of the incidences of corruption and financial mismanagement on time.

Brian Mahlangu is an independent public policy and governance analyst and a member of the Council at Vaal University of Technology. He writes in his personal capacity.


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