African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma says politicians cannot be trusted to adjudicate tenders for government business.
Zuma has made the observation at least four times since July – including twice this last week.
The ANC leader who will likely be elected president after next year`s general election, has been accused of corruption in relation to the R47 billion Strategic Defence Package (SDP) that saw South Africa acquire 50 fighter aircraft, 30 helicopters, four frigates and three submarines.
SDP critics have also alleged – and say they can prove – that other politicians and officials interfered with the selection criteria for some of the equipment acquired in exchange for bribes. Some of the accusations are currently being probed by local and international law enforcement agencies.
Parliament`s Standing Committee on Public Accounts are also scheduled to hold hearings on the claims in the New Year.
The Witness reports Zuma told journalists in uMsinga on Tuesday his party was looking at implementing measures to separate politicians from participating in the tender processes, because the current system has resulted in politicians becoming involved in serious corrupt activities.
“Part of the problem is that those who are given authority also participate in tender processes … and that has caused major problems. How do we deal with that? It is clear that we need to separate politicians from tenders,” he said.
Zuma on Monday held talks with Namibia`s South West People`s Organisation and says he wanted “to learn from them how to fight corruption in government and we believe that we will not win [re-election at the polls] if politicians continue getting involved in the awarding of tenders.”
The paper adds that although “details of the new system have not been finalised by the ANC, Zuma said he prefers tender boards”, observing that they will not be easily influenced by politicians.
“South Africa used to have tender boards. This worked very well because there was no undue influence from politicians. We believe that we will win the battle against corruption,” said Zuma.
Agence France Presse on Monday reported from Windhoek that Zuma said the ANC needed to do “something radical” to curb corruption.
“We are very concerned about the level of corruption in government and we must do something radical about it,” Zuma said, “otherwise people get the perception that the ANC condones corruption.
“If you don’t deal with corruption, it is a problem.
“Politicians take decisions on billions of rands, and if they are separated from the tender process one can avoid politicians influencing others to make certain decisions.”
In July Zuma said much the same in an interview with the Independent Newspapers and repeated the message to the Cape Town Press Club.
He told the latter when people talked of corruption it was generally associated with “government structures”. He proposed “the removal of tenders, procurement and so on from people who hold political offices”.
He also suggested a clear separation of functions. “We must separate it,” he said. “Politicians should be able to identify needs and talk about budgets.”
But Business Report says Treasury spokesperson Thoraya Pandy responded that there is already a division of powers operating. “The accounting officer of each department was responsible for the procurement process; ministers were not involved.”
Zuma has previously told Independent Newspapers that the government had failed to implement the cooling-off period to avoid a conflict of interest for politicians and civil servants who left the government to pursue business interests in the same field.
He said that “we need to move with speed” to implement the cooling-off period.