Corruption costing SA: Madonsela

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The cancer of corruption – appropriately referred to as a crime against the poor – is eating public resources at the speed of lightning, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Friday. Addressing a conference of the Institute of Municipal Personnel Practitioners of Southern Africa, she said if the stories she had heard during the recent road show themed, “The Public Protector dialogues with the Nation”, are proven to be true, “then as a nation we are in trouble”.

“We may have reached the tipping point after which trying to end corruption will be like trying to bring water up from the bottom of a waterfall.” Anecdotal evidence suggested that the most serious crisis lay in the state procurement system, the South African Press Association reports. “It appears that if we don’t take drastic action there will soon be no money for service delivery,” Madonsela said.

Billions of rands meant to deliver on the constitutional promise of service delivery in pursuit of a better life for all were “unlawfully and greedily siphoned into the private pockets of persons within and outside government”. Even where there was no proven corruption, billions of rands were still wasted through lack of diligence in public sector procurement management. “It’s a well known joke that if you want to sell any goods or services at multiple market value – from pencils to multibillion construction projects – target government. “Who hasn’t heard about the pens that are bought from stationery shops for R3 and sold in bulk to government for R15 or more? “How about stories that laptop computers that are purchased from retail outlets at the cost of R5 000 or so and bought by government through bulk purchasing at R40 000 per laptop computer?”

Ordinarily, bulk purchasing gave one leverage for lower pricing but that did not apply to the government, she said. During stakeholder consultations last year, a municipal leadership implored her office to ask provincial and national government to step in with about R130 000 to fix street lights as the municipality’s budget had been exhausted. An investigation into allegations of corruption within the same municipality in an unrelated manner revealed that millions of rand had been wasted on a contract issued irregularly and without due diligence in regard to pricing control.
“We get these kinds of cases at all levels of government, including state entities such as Transnet, Telkom, and Eskom, she said. “In one of the provinces, during the current stakeholder consultations, we were told about a company that was paid R8 million for building one RDP house. “What worries me and my team most, are ill-considered projects that will bind this nation for years to come and whose costs keep escalating to the point that they may bankrupt us as a nation. “The possibility of national bankruptcy is not a farfetched possibility. It is a real threat,” Madonsela said.