Don't get offended by questions: Madonsela

2011-12-09 22:44
Johannesburg - Public sector authorities should not be offended when citizens question decisions or alleged corruption, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Friday.

"We should not be offended. It's a culture that says we don't want to be accountable," she told an anti-corruption summit in Johannesburg.

"We have to have the humility to answer the questions because accountability is an important part in the fight against corruption."

She said the public sector was the largest provider of employment and it had become the most vulnerable to corruption.

Delegates heard that citizens needed to be empowered to know what questions to ask and who to question.

They also had a right to know why certain decisions were made and what influenced those decisions, Madonsela said.

Breeding ground for corruption

"People deserve to know why you made one decision instead of another. People should also know what influenced the decision."

Madonsela said transparency was extremely important and noted that maladministration created a breeding ground for corruption.

"We are all responsible for what is happening. We either get involved in it... or we look the other way. If we have corruption, it boils down to the way our society has become."

Speaking metaphorically about an animal farm, she said the behaviour of the "animals" was troubling.

"In addition to cheating the other animals... of food, their explanation for eating all the food was that they were eating it for you...

"They said they needed to be well fed and looked after so that they could govern properly."

Madonsela said the reality was that the others were working hard and starving.

"I'm using animal farm as a metaphor for people who misappropriated public funds or have been involved in the abuse of state resources.

Bilateral crime

"They call upon the very poor to defend them, claiming that they are now being persecuted."

She said accountability and strong leadership was crucial in efforts to defeat corruption.

"Where there is abuse of power and abuse of state resources, corruption thrives," she said.

"We need strong leaders for good governance and they must have consistency."

Weak systems also needed to be fixed.

The public protector explained that corruption was a bilateral crime that took "two to tango".

"If people in government are corrupt, with whom are they being corrupt?"

She stressed that all individuals involved in such crimes should suffer the consequences and not just the public servants.

One of the most common forms of corruption was bribery.

She said often people who abused power ended up appealing to the poor they wronged.

Madonsela encouraged efforts by individuals and groups in fighting corruption and applauded the media for its role.

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