Government “strengthened” anti-corruption systems – Godongwana

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No less a personage than President Cyril Ramaphosa’s finance minister admits no system is “watertight” against corruption.

This formed part of a written reply by Enoch Godongwana to an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) parliamentarian’s question. Elphas Buthelezi wanted the finance minister to elaborate on measures “adopted” to ensure “monies allocated to various departments and ministries are not misused”.

Godongwana’s response is in broad terms and he makes no specific mention of hollowed-out State-owned companies (SOEs) including Eskom and SAA as well as Denel.

“Government has taken a number of steps since the era of State capture to strengthen the anti-corruption system, but even with such improvements, no system can be watertight against corruption,” the Ministerial response reads continuing “it is a fact that corruption has become deeply entrenched in all three spheres of government, at national, provincial and local government level and in public entities”.

“We need to do more as a country to improve governance and oversight systems, but most importantly, to ensure all accounting officers ensure they always act in the public interest and spend funds for the purposes budgeted for. More broadly, that all in the public service in all three spheres of government, be it political office bearers, legislators, councillors, accounting officers and authorities and all officials and employees in the public sector, act honestly and with integrity at all times.”

In the defence sector the harm done by State capture, also known as grand corruption, is best or worst seen at Denel while the seeming abuse of established procurement procedures at the Department of Defence (DoD) saw the Auditor-General find R23 million plus went to acquiring a non-South African approved Cuban prophylactic at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are examples. On the same day Buthelezi’s question was answered, SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief, Lieutenant-General Wiseman Mbambo warned officers against corruption and theft during a operation readiness briefing, so the three-star could not have taken Godongwana’s response into his address.

The Finance Minister further told his questioner Government recognises corruption is one of the highest risks facing any procurement process and “we need to strengthen our planning, preventive and internal control systems to reduce the scope of such corruption”. In this regard the Ramaphosa administration is “modernising” its procurement system and introduced a new Public Procurement Bill to give effect to procurement-related recommendations of the Zondo Commission.