Corruption 'fourishes'

2018-09-26 13:42

According to a statement released by Corruption Watch, the highest number of reports of corruption comes from the education sector.

“Bribery and the abuse of power and resources is a disturbing catalyst for creating an environment where crime and corruption can flourish,” the statement reads.

In Corruption Watch’s latest statistics on the Western Cape, the primary forms of corruption are bribery, irregularities in procurement and employment, embezzlement of funds, and theft of resources. Data was gathered from reports of corruption sent to the organisation by the public between 2012 and 2018.

“Corruption in schools continues to be an area with the highest number of reports of corruption, both in the Western Cape and on a national level. Many reports point to collusion between principals and school officials or SGB members, resulting in the theft of school funds and the enrichment of a few, at the expense of the wellbeing of learners,” the report states.

Almost 10% of the reported corruption took place in schools, the organisation found. The most common types of corruption were embezzlement of funds and theft of resources (32%), irregularities in employment (14.8%) and mismanagement of funds (12%).

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has reporting mechanisms in place, whereas other provinces may not have as effective systems, says WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond.

“While it may seem that we have the highest reports of corruption, this is not necessarily the case,” says Hammond.

“The WCED is the only provincial education department to have achieved a clean financial audit since 1994, and we are proud of the effective and efficient monitoring systems that are in place to deal with fraud and corruption. Fraud and corruption of course represent significant potential risks to the department’s assets and can negatively impact on service delivery efficiency and the department’s reputation.”

The Western Cape Government (WCG) has adopted an Anti-Corruption Strategy which confirms the province’s zero tolerance stance towards fraud and corruption, she adds, and the WCED operates in line with this, Hammond explains.

“Each allegation received by the Provincial Forensic Services (PFS) Unit is recorded in a case management system which is used as a management tool to report on progress made with cases relating to the department and generating statistics for the province and department.

“Employees who blow the whistle on suspicions of fraud, corruption and theft are protected if the disclosure is a protected disclosure.

“The opportunity to remain anonymous is afforded to any person who would like to report acts of fraud, theft and corruption and should they do so in person, their identities are kept confidential by the person to whom they are reporting.”

Once fraud or corruption is confirmed after completion of an investigation, the relevant employee who participated in these acts is subjected to a disciplinary hearing, she says.

At school level, the School Governing Body (SGB) is responsible for establishing a school fund and administering it in accordance with directions issued by the department, Hammond explains.

“They should draw up a financial policy that clearly indicates what the procedures and rules are for handling money in the school. It should provide a clear understanding of the responsibilities of the treasurer, the finance officer, the principal, and other persons to whom specific tasks are delegated. The tasks delegated to certain people by the SGB must be clearly stipulated in writing. A manual, Basic Financial Manual for Schools, has been issued to new SGBs that were elected earlier this year. The WCED provides training for schools in financial management. The manual was compiled to assist governing body members and personnel with the effective and efficient handling of financial matters.”

Public schools submit six-monthly income and expenditure reports, Hammond says. The reports submitted include a declaration made with regard to sound financial management practices which must be signed by the chairperson and treasurer. All financial reports, including the annual financial statements of the schools, are reviewed by the respective district office before the school is declared financially sound.

According to Corruption Watch, the housing or human settlements sector also accounts for a high number of reports. Other sectors include health services, policing, licensing and immigration.

“In the past people in the Western Cape may have been reluctant to report corruption, in the face of a lack of visible leadership or willingness to address the abuse of resources that directly impacts their lives and their access to services,” the statement reads.

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