KZN second most corrupt province: Corruption Watch report
Shirley le Guern
KwaZulu-Natal was the second most corrupt province during the first half of 2020, according to Corruption Watch’s 2020 Analysis of Corruption Trends (ACT) Report released on Tuesday.
The report not only demonstrated growing concern about corruption levels in South Africa, but also reflected a spike in whistle-blower reports during Covid-19, with 1 995 complaints recorded over six months.
KZN was second to Gauteng with 13% of corruption reports. The majority of these, at 5.8 %, came from the eThekwini Municipality. Whistle-blower reports from KZN increased from 11% recorded over the same period last year.
This year 44% of reports came from Gauteng, with the Western Cape in third place with 10%.
Corruption Watch’s Melusi Ncala, the report’s primary researcher, said this snapshot showed graft that had manifested in every sphere of government, with the complicity of the private sector, represented silent, but deadly, destruction that affected the poorest people who were brutalised by corrupt individuals.
“We continue to learn of unruly police officials and officers, resources that are lost to greedy officials and teachers at schools and clinics, and hospitals that cannot care for the sick because beds, medical equipment and medication are not provided for, or are simply stolen,” he said.
The most prevalent from of corruption in local government was misappropriation of resources, which accounted for 35% of corruption cases.
“We have learnt from whistle-blowers that officials and employees at municipalities have embezzled and mismanaged funds meant for service delivery and development in communities. In some cases, it is reported that tens of millions of rand are unaccounted for, and these funds were allocated for the construction of sports facilities, roads and houses,” the report notes.
Going hand in hand with misappropriation of resources are the 19% of corruption cases detailing procurement corruption. Businesses, at times organised in groupings similar to cartels, pay kickbacks to councillors who, in turn, ensure that contracts are exclusively awarded to them.
A disturbing trend that emerged during the Covid-19 crisis was the theft of food parcels.
“(This) exposes corruption in its most basic form – the greediness of those in power who steal food out of the mouths of the most vulnerable in our society. Since the start of the lockdown until the end of June 2020, Corruption Watch received 67 reports of corruption relating to the provision of food parcels. Members of the public have been asked to pay money or exchange favours in order to receive a food parcel or voucher.
“Food parcels have been distributed using systems of patronage. Reporters have indicated that only friends, supporters and family members of ward councillors were receiving food parcels and that some ward councillors/elected officials have allegedly stolen the contents of food parcels and resold them back to their communities,” the report states. Nevertheless, for the second consecutive year, it was police corruption that topped the list of reports.
Most reports included allegations of brutality, especially during the early stages of the Covid-19 lockdown.
“These reports speak to the SAPS’s lack of humanity and consideration for the members of the public whom it serves and a blatant disregard for law and order on the part of officers and officials.
“Perhaps predictably, bribery features in 31% of reports of police corruption, highlighting how police officers solicit bribes from suspects and victims alike, as well as residents. During the lockdown period, officers seemed to act with impunity in both their behaviour and extraction of favours, patterns that also featured in the 29% of allegations relating to abuse of power,” Ncala said.
The long-running Corruption Watch campaign exposing corruption in schools continued to reflect in this report. Of the 5% of school-related corruption cases, misappropriation of resources accounted for 19%.
Four percent of reports featured in the 2020 ACT report indicate ongoing corruption in health care, with employment irregularities the most common at 39%, revealing how the family and friends of authority figures were the preferred candidates for jobs.
Irregularities in health-care procurement featured in 14% of the cases, often involving senior officials awarding lucrative contracts to companies with which they had close ties.
Ncala paid tribute to the courageous whistle-blowers who, at great personal risk, had tried to expose corrupt individuals during this “dark period”.