Poor coordination hampering anti-corruption fight


South Africa’s Public Service Commission says a lack of coordination, non-compliance and integration is hampering the effective rooting out of corruption in government departments. PSC chairman Ralph Mgijima says corruption will be dealt a blow if there is coordination among government departments.

“Corruption transcends institutional boundaries, and it is therefore crucial for different departments and sectors of society to collaborate to fight it,” he says. He was speaking a day after Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan said the state was investigating procurement and tender fraud worth R25 billion, a considerable chunk of the government’s total expenditure that stands at R816.5 billion for the current year and almost equal to the defence budget of some R30.4 billion. Gordhan did not give a period over which the R25 billion had been misappropriated.

The state BuaNews agency reports Mgijima as saying structures established to promote the coordination of anti-corruption efforts among government departments and between government, business and civil society have “not been optimal”. Mgijima also expressed concern about the cases which at times are not dealt with effectively. The chairman was speaking at the release of the commission’s 9th annual State of the Public Service report in Pretoria and added the commission was concerned about corruption cases which were not being reported to the police. Only 36% of corruption cases were being reported.

Mgijima also blamed human resource plans which were lacking in credible strategies to attract and retain a competent workforce for the lack of capacity and skills in the public service, which in some instances affected service delivery.

Meanwhile, the South African Press Association reports Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi, to whom the PSC reports, as adding South Africa must adopt an anti-corruption culture that is taught at kindergarten right through to institutions of higher learning. “We must create a public awareness that makes it anti-South African to be corrupt,” he said at an anti-corruption business forum in Johannesburg, hosted by Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).

Since corruption undermined the rule of law, it was incumbent on the business community to join forces with the government to combat it, SAPA added. “It is the business community that must write the rules of business, they cannot be determined by those not in business.” Corruption could stunt economic development in the country as it would discourage foreign direct investment. South Africa ranked 54th in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released on Tuesday. The country had a score of 4.5. Botswana was best of all African countries at 33rd with a score of 5.8. The closer the score is to ten, the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

Baloyi said that this indicated South Africa had a growing corruption problem. It had the infrastructure to combat corruption, but it was not being properly used. “Corruption could collapse the economy in ways only realised once the collapse has taken place.”

BUSA president Futhi Mtoba said the organ will encourage the private sector to sign integrity pacts, particularly when they go out for government tenders. The pact will commit private sector companies to not paying bribes and to conduct business ethically when tendering for projects, said Mtoba, highlighting that successes with such programmes have been achieved in countries like Germany and Mexico.

If companies committed to signing such pacts and conducting business ethically, the prices of tenders could be reduced, while quality would be assured, she noted. Further, she welcomed Gordhan’s discussions during the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday that all tender information, from the start to project execution, will be made available transparently to the public on the Internet.

Gordhan announced various steps to end the larceny, including stiff penalties, “up to double the contract value, for service providers who obtain government contracts fraudulently.” Public officials who assist in tender fraud will also be liable for resultant losses incurred by government. Gordhan, the former head of the South African Revenue Service, also suggested a tax as an appropriate form of defence. “Tax compliance measures associated with government procurement will be strengthened. The introduction of a withholding tax on payments made to businesses in respect of government tenders is under consideration. It is also proposed that the procedures for issue of tax clearance certificates should be revised, to provide for direct checking by SARS of the tax compliance of winning bidders rather than pre-clearance of all bidders,” he said.