Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s newly appointed head of finance said on Wednesday that government officials were experiencing “a new awareness” when it came to fraud and corruption.
MEC Ravi Pillay said there was a “new culture and a new climate” in the country when it came to addressing corruption.
“I think any official who is party to a procurement decision will be thinking twice about doing the [wrong] thing,” said Pillay.
He was speaking during a ‘media interactive session’ at the Coastlands Musgrave hotel hosted by the office of KZN premier, Sihle Zikalala.
Pillay was one of several MECs present at the event.
He was responding to African News Agency's (ANA) questions about the province’s failure to lay criminal charges against those within its ranks accused of corruption – with the Manase Report used as an example of the failure.
The Manase Report was a forensic investigation into eThekwini Municipality that was released following public pressure in 2012.
It detailed widespread fraud and corruption within the city and implicated a number of high-ranking officials. Conservative estimates placed the amount of money looted at about half a billion rand.
No one has ever been prosecuted for the part they played in the alleged corruption - meticulously detailed in the 700-page report - but several councillors were fined a portion of their salaries.
ANA’s questions about the report were aimed at Zikalala but were answered by Pillay and newly appointed economic development MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube. It was under Dube-Ncube’s watch as cooperative governance MEC that the report was initiated.
Pillay – who previously led provincial public works and human settlements - said the “new awareness” about corruption was in part thanks to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.
“I sense a new culture and a new awareness - certainly from a leadership side in the meetings we are involved in - there is a conscious drive to implement these anti-corruption measures,” he said.
Arrests had been made of officials implicated in fraud and corruption, he said, but perhaps not at the levels that would be liked.
“But remember also that we live in a constitutional state, so there must be proper processes. As much as the premier can add to the narrative of the anti-corruption fight as far as arrests and prosecutions are concerned, it is actually not within the line function jurisdiction.
“Both justice and SAPS are largely national duties. The National Prosecuting Authority is very clear about the arms’ length relationship with the executive authorities,” said Pillay.
He said a distinction also had to be made between blatantly corrupt activities where someone was “jippoing the system to get a particular outcome” and poor management.
“A lot of it has to do with just pure capacity - capacity to deal with a complex supply chain management process.
“And I think we [MECs] have said it amongst ourselves, that for too long we have neglected supply chain management to be handled in some back room, often by junior people, thinking it is just clerical work. It’s not.
“Supply chain management is a complicated science that is often subject to legal challenge. And there is a whole lot of complex technical work that needs to be done, so we have to build that particular capacity.”
Dube-Ncube said it was her “recollection” that “officials were disciplined” over the Manase Report. “There were officials that also had to pay back some money that the city had lost.”
She said the special investigating unit was “dealing with and following-up” on elements that arose from the report and that ultimately, the onus was on the city’s leaders to “deal with outstanding issues” regarding the report.