Vavi’s war on graft

2011-06-25 18:30

Labour federation Cosatu is ready to name and shame ­corrupt public officials and politicians through its new watchdog agency, Corruption Watch.

In a first for South Africa, the labour organisation will reveal its anti-corruption agency at this week’s four-day central committee meeting that starts tomorrow in Midrand.

Corruption Watch will officially be launched in December.

City Press understands that the former chairperson of the Competition Tribunal, David Lewis, was instrumental in the setting up of Corruption Watch and will be involved in its operation. Lewis declined to confirm or deny his role yesterday, referring all queries to Vavi.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven also refused to be drawn on Lewis’ role, only responding: “Where did you hear that?”

Corruption Watch will be launched on December 9 to ­coincide with International Anti-Corruption Day.

Vavi said Corruption Watch, which will operate “at arm’s length from Cosatu”, will be run by an independent board.

People serving on it would do so in their individual capacity.

“We don’t want to create a ­Cosatu pseudo-bulldog. We want a genuinely independent institution to do the work.

“Cosatu members give us ­envelopes all the time about what they regard as fraud and corruption. We want to build ­capacity to scratch beyond the surface when we receive those envelopes. That’s the purpose of launching the Corruption Watch,” he said.

According to a secretariat ­report Vavi will table before ­Cosatu’s central committee meeting, Corruption Watch will:
» Act as a safe haven where whistle-blowers can report ­corruption;
» Investigate alleged corruption and hand over its dossiers of “prima facie evidence” of ­corruption to the authorities;
» Initiate civil litigation against individuals and institutions implicated in corruption;
» Run advocacy campaigns to spread awareness about corruption and promote good governance; and
» Carry out research into ­corruption and establish relationships with similar international bodies.

The institution, Vavi said, would also scrutinise reports by the auditor-general and national treasury on suspended public servants.

Corruption Watch will push for faster action to be taken against suspended officials so that they don’t remain on the state’s payroll for long periods.

“We want to look closely at how many of them are suspended for fraud – for corruption and tender fraud, in particular. Surely society needs to know what happens to them.

“That’s the type of work that Corruption Watch will expose. Once it gives us the information, we can go to the streets and boardrooms and say: How dare you keep a potential fraudster ­suspended for three years without any decisive action on your part?” Vavi said.

City Press understands that Cosatu will use the fight against corruption as the condition on which it will decide whether to support President Jacob Zuma in his bid for a second term as ANC president at the party’s Mangaung conference next year.

Although the federation was instrumental in lobbying for the closure of the Scorpions, Cosatu – and Vavi, in particular – has been vocal on public sector ­corruption in recent months.

Craven denied that Corruption Watch was meant to fill the vacuum left by the scrapping of the Scorpions.

“Corruption existed when the Scorpions were there and ­continued afterwards,” he said.

The federation has spoken out against the handling of ­corruption cases in:
» Mpumalanga, where whistleblowers have allegedly been ­assassinated;
» The Northern Cape, where ANC chairperson John Block is embroiled in a corruption trial; and
» Limpopo, the home province of ANC Youth League leader ­Julius Malema, where allegations of corruption have been levelled against the health and social development department.

Vavi has also publicly crossed swords with the Gupta family, whose business dealings he has criticised; Siphiwe Nyanda, ­Zuma’s parliamentary adviser and former communications minister; and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka, against whom allegations of corruption have been levelled.

Vavi’s secretariat report ­denies that the push against ­corruption is aimed at political opponents, saying “the fight against corruption has to target culprits regardless of their political affiliations or ideologies”.

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