In this file picture, church leaders conduct a silent protest against Covid - 19 corruption. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
In this file picture, church leaders conduct a silent protest against Covid - 19 corruption. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

OPINION: Corruption affects everyone and all South Africans must fight it

Time of article published Oct 13, 2020

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Corruption is a clear and present danger to the development of any nation. It robs citizens and communities of their right to services, and it can derail and undo our efforts to move South Africa forward.

Unchecked corruption can lead to a slowing of investment and can disrupt economic growth. It undermines democracy, creates unstable governments and it destroys the economy.

Many people might think that corruption only affects governments or corporations. However, corruption places us all at risk and must therefore be fought by everyone. In early March when our country was just starting to feel the full force of the global Covid-19 pandemic there was a sudden clamour for masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Sadly, even within the midst of a deadly pandemic, we witnessed alleged cases of inflated pricing and of corruption related to PPE procurement. These shocking events have highlighted the need for enhanced scrutiny of corruption in the health sector.

Fortunately, there is already a body – the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum (HSACF) – which requires all sectors to collaborate and implement initiatives that will address challenges in the health sector.

It is also an outcome of the AntiCorruption Task Team Programme, which is mandated to conduct risk assessments in sectors vulnerable to fraud and corruption.

The forum’s main objective is to collaborate with various stakeholders in the fight against fraud and corruption, and identify areas of co-operation to enhance prevention, detection and prosecution of fraud and corruption in the health system.

The HSACF, launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa on October 1 last year, comprises civil society, law enforcement agencies, health sector regulators, government departments and the private sector.

The HSACF is convened by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) under the chairmanship of advocate Andy Mothibi. The health sector has always been vulnerable to irregularities long before the advent of Covid-19. Doctor registration irregularities, medical aid fraud, regulatory weaknesses in health sector compliance enforcement, pharmaceutical company collusion, and procurement irregularities are common in the sector.

Given this reality and the critical importance of the health sector in our fight against Covid-19, a series of HSACF webinars have been planned from this month to December. These webinars will help to create public awareness and improve the public’s understanding of issues related to corruption within the public and private health sectors.

They are also platforms to profile the current activities of the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, and highlight the role of its members in combating corruption and fraud in the health sector.

An introductory webinar was successfully held earlier this month, in partnership with Corruption Watch, Daily Maverick, GCIS and the Special Investigating Unit.

The thematic focus was the “Corruption Epidemic in South Africa’s Health System”. More webinars will follow with different themes focusing on the health sector.

By sharing our experiences in the health sector we can better ensure greater transparency and clean governance. Through our collaboration, we can ensure greater detection, and prevention of corruption – and better detection and prosecution.

The government is aware of irregularities around the procurement of PPE and is determined to hold those who have broken the law or flouted regulations to account. On the request of President Ramaphosa, the Auditor-General undertook an audit of 16 of the key Covid-19 initiatives introduced by the government and the management of funds made available for these initiatives.

In July President Ramaphosa announced the establishment of a centre to strengthen efforts among law enforcement agencies so as to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute Covid-related corruption.

This centre brings together nine state institutions: the Financial Intelligence Centre, Independent Police Investigative Directorate, NPA, the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, the SAPS Detective Service, SA Revenue Service, the SIU and State Security Agency.

With an operational hub at the Financial Intelligence Centre, this centre is investigating allegations of corruption in areas such as the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, the procurement of PPE and other medical supplies, and the UIF special Covid-19 scheme.

President Ramaphosa has also signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate any unlawful or improper conduct in the procurement of any goods, work and services during or related to the national state of disaster in any state institution.

The president has since announced that at least 36 cases are currently at various stages of investigation and prosecution.

As the government, we are determined to root out corruption and we call on the public to play your part by reporting those who commit such crimes to law enforcement agencies. If you see something, say something.

Report corruption by dialling the National Anti-Corruption Hotline at 0800 701 701.

The Star

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