Public beliefs about a perceived increase in corrupt activities may be as a result of increased action against corrupt officials and reports thereof.
This is according to a statement from the Presidency following the release of an Afrobarometer corruption survey in which citizens felt that corruption had worsened in the country.
The Presidency acknowledged that corruption and its effects remain one of the “greatest challenges facing our country” but also emphasised that the investigation and prosecution of suspects by law enforcement agencies has heightened public knowledge thereof.
“Perceptions of corruption are no doubt…the result of the prominence of specific cases of corruption in the public space. Through the work done in strengthening law enforcement agencies, several high-profile cases of alleged corruption have been brought to courts across the country. Such investigations, trials and disciplinary proceedings – which are the result of the responses of this administration to bribery and corruption – raise public awareness of incidents of wrongdoing.”
The Presidency also highlighted that the “work done by the media in uncovering and reporting on allegations of corruption” may also be inadvertently fuelling these perceptions.
It also noted the increased action by law enforcement agencies against corrupt activities – an example of which is the R878 million recovered from COVID-19 corruption related activities.
“While there is much more work that needs to be done to fight corruption, particularly the kind of corruption that impacts directly on people’s lives, there is clear evidence that after years of impunity progress is being made in bringing those responsible to account. Just as importantly, there is real progress in strengthening the institutions responsible for fighting corruption and other public bodies that have been badly damaged by corruption,” the Presidency said.
According to the Presidency, since President Cyril Ramaphosa came into office, a number of corruption fighting measures have been put in place.
Some of these include:
A change in boards and executive management in several “captured” state owned enterprises which have “halted corrupt practices, initiated disciplinary and criminal actions against people alleged to be involved in corruption, and have recovered large sums of money irregularly spent”.
A Commission of Inquiry into SARS found severe governance and operational failures and its recommendations “contributed significantly to the turnaround of the institution and the resumption of effective revenue collection”.
The appointment of new leadership at the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) which resulted in “restored credibility and stability and led to tangible action against alleged corruption”.
A High-Level Panel on the State Security Agency was appointed towards rebuilding and restoring integrity of intelligence services, which made several recommendations to end corruption and politicisation.
The Mpati Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation was established – its findings and recommendations have led to remedial measures being instituted at the PIC.
The appointment of Advocate Shamila Batohi as the new National Director of Public Prosecutions which has “had a great effect on the functioning and credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)”.
The SIU Special Tribunal was appointed to expedite civil claims against corrupt individuals and the recovery of stolen funds.
The NPA Investigating Directorate was established to focus on prosecution of state capture and other significant corruption cases.
A Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum was launched to identify, investigate and prosecute corruption in the health sector.
The Zondo Commission regulations were amended to enable sharing of information and resources with NPA.
A Fusion Centre was established to strengthen collective efforts among law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute COVID-related corruption. As a result of the work done, 39 accused persons had appeared in 23 criminal court cases across the country by June 2021 with at least R878 million recovered placed into the fiscus.
President Ramaphosa authorised the SIU to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of COVID-19 funds across all spheres of the state. By August 2021, the SIU had referred cases worth R1.4 billion to the Special Tribunal in order to have contracts set aside and recover lost funds; referred 148 individuals and entities to the National Prosecuting Authority for possible criminal action; referred 127 government officials for disciplinary action and 3 political office bearers for executive action.
The Presidency committed to continuing the fight against corruption through “political leadership” and the “ethical renewal of our society”.