President Cyril Ramaphosa is sworn in. Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA
Johannesburg - South Africa's low rating on the recently released corruption index by Transparency International could improve, given efforts by President Cyril Ramaphosa to root out corruption with several ongoing investigations.

This is the view of IFP MP Narend Singh, who said the country was slowly starting to address issues when it came to fighting corruption.

Singh said it was unsurprising that South Africa was ranked 71st in the corruption index, in light of the events of the past decade.

“There are about 200 cases of corruption by officials within government that are either at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the investigating agencies or the National Treasury, which is unsatisfactory.

“There’s supposed to be an anti-corruption unit, which hasn’t been meeting regularly. It’s supposed to bring the Office of the Auditor-General, the Treasury, the Hawks and the NPA together, so that’s a bit of a concern, which hasn’t been happening,” Singh said.

He said Parliament was considering amendments to the Public Audit Act, which governs the way the Auditor-General has to function.

“We’re looking to increase the power and functions of the Auditor-General to refer matters of fruitless, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure, which are outstanding for a year and more, to agencies such as the Hawks.

Read: Corruption Perceptions Index: NZ ranks tops, SA at 71

“There are measures that are intended to tighten things up, and let’s just hope that the new president will have more of a resolve to deal with matters of corruption.

"We’ve started on a good note with the Justice Raymond Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

“But there is lots more that needs to be investigated not only at national level, but at state-owned enterprises and also at provincial and municipal level,” Singh pointed out.

Neeshan Balton, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation's executive director, said there seemed to be a new determination to deal with state capture, corruption and wasteful expenditure.

“The clear signal on the comments made about the bailing out of SAA and the fact that it is just unsustainable for a government which is having to increase VAT to pay partly for all kinds of wasteful and corrupt expenditure and the unanticipated cost of free higher education,” Balton said.

Politicians would now be forced to pay greater attention to irregular expenditure, wasteful expenditure and expenditure incurred because of corruption, as there might previously have been ways in the Budget that allowed people to get away with it, he added.

Balton said the space for public officials to abuse public funds was being closed.

Also read: SA still keeping dubious company, says corruption watchdog

Speaking in Parliament, DA leader Mmusi Maimane recently said South Africa’s corrupt system was not the work of only one man, and if the country wanted to undo the damage of the state capture project, it should acknowledge the cause.

“This corrupt system is not the work of just one man, nor is the removal of one man enough to destroy it. If you want to root out corruption, put an end to the ANC's policy of cadre deployment,” said Maimane.

This would mean confronting the perpetrators of “this corrupt system who still sit in this House, and who occupy senior office at Luthuli House", some of whom were also responsible for the Vrede dairy farm theft, Maimane pointed out.

“We have removed a corrupt and broken president from office. Our task now is to fix the broken country he left behind. President Ramaphosa has promised the people of South Africa a new dawn.

"I really believe that this is what he wants for South Africa. It is certainly what we want for South Africa. And I want to pledge my support, and the support of my party, towards the realisation of this goal,” Maimane said.

EFF leader Julius Malema had said South Africans were too comfortable with corruption and injustices, because they kept voting for the same people.

“There is a lot of money in government. Municipalities have money, but instead of delivering services they are looting it just like their father (in reference to Zuma).

"They are rotten to the core. The power is in your hands let us not be comfortable with corruption. When we say to people Zuma took our money to Dubai they don't want to listen” Malema said last year.

Anton van Dalsen, the Helen Suzman Foundation's legal counsellor, said the corruption index listing could also be attributed to the downgrades by rating agencies Moody's, Fitch and S&P Global last year.

“It’s quite a complex process, and a variety of things are taken into account, such as economic growth, how strong government finances are, what the growth forecasts are, and the institutional government strength,” Van Dalsen said.

In the latest index, New Zealand and Denmark rank the highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank the lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively.

The best-performing region is western Europe, with an average score of 66, with sub-Saharan Africa the worst-performing region.

The Star