Time for public servants to take a stand against corruption
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By Kaizer Kganyago
When President Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president of the Republic of South Africa, he promised to intensify the fight against corruption in the country. He was at pains to explain that corruption erodes democracy and that all South Africans should stand together in the fight against the scourge of corruption.
Since then, President Ramaphosa has,, amongst others signed a number of proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate corruption, malpractice and maladministration in various institutions in the public sector. This includes authorising the SIU to investigate allegations of corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SIU is doing everything it can to hold those responsible to account for their actions and to recover and return the stolen assets. For instance, it is currently investigating 4 117 contracts, which were awarded to 2 251 service providers. Out of these contracts, the SIU has concluded 1 071 investigations worth over R5.7 million, while 2 695 contracts to the value of over R7 million are currently under way.
Cases that have been concluded include the R10.1 million tender that was irregularly awarded by the Eastern Cape Department of Health to Fabkomp Pty Ltd to deliver 100 scooter ambulances. This tender has since been declared unlawful and invalid.
Other successfully concluded cases include the irregular awarding of five contracts for masks worth R18.6 million by the Mpumalanga Department of Health and R300 million contract for the construction of 1 800 temporary shelters by the Eastern Cape Human Settlement.
To recover money lost, the SIU has instituted 20 civil matters at the Special Tribunal to the value of R1 billion. Through this process, the SIU seeks to have PPE contracts, which were irregularly awarded by government departments, municipalities and state-owned entities, declared unlawful and invalid, and to recover financial losses suffered by the state from those responsible.
Furthermore, 82 matters have been referred to the NPA for prosecution, while 88 disciplinary referrals have been made against government officials for contravening sections of the Public Finance Management Act and violating supply chain management process.
As government we welcome these concrete actions aimed at ensuring that those responsible for corruption are held to account. While we are encouraged by this decisive action, we are nevertheless concerned that our findings show that certain people are prepared to go all out to disregard due processes and erode the state’s machinery to operate within the confines of the law. Throughout our investigation, we have found that political pressure played a role in the procurement of PPEs.
More disturbing is that the names of the service providers were determined before any supply-chain management process commenced. This include the awarding of contracts to companies that are not registered on the government’s Central Supplier Database (CSD).
Furthermore, the type of goods supplied were not consistent with the nature of the business registered on the CIPC and CSD. Product specifications were also ignored and products that were not suitable for its intended purposes were purchased and in several instances against the advice of experts who expressed opinions on the usefulness of the products.
Some may argue that these investigations show that corruption is endemic in the public sector. This is far from the truth because corruption is not limited to the public sector. It takes two to commit an act of corruption, for every act of corruption; there is a shady business person that wants to pay off an unscrupulous public servant. Corruption can also include paying a traffic officer to turn a blind eye to your indiscretion, pay for your driver’s licence or attempt to influence business deals through a bribe.
We must therefore adopt a holistic approach to fighting this scourge, and deal with the corruptor and the corrupted. Of course civil servants should take the lead in this regard and must take a stand against corruption and report all corruption related activities that are taking place in government institutions.
Corruption has a negative impact in government’s ability to deliver basic services like water, healthcare, sanitation, roads, electricity housing and education. It also takes away resources that are meant to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and this cannot be allowed to continue further.
While we are making progress, we understand that more needs to be done to overcome this scourge. Let us act today and blow the whistle on corruption in both the public and private sector.
If you are aware of corrupt activities, use our toll-free National Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 701 701 to report it anonymously.
* Kaizer Kganyago is SIU head of stakeholder relations and communications