Work of Chapter 9 institutions should not be relegated - deputy justice minister

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John Jeffery is the SA Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.
John Jeffery is the SA Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images
  • The SAHRC in collaboration with the Office of the Public Protector is hosting a three-day conference on corruption and human rights.
  • The conference brings together stakeholders to discuss, among other issues, the impact of corruption on human rights in SA.
  • Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffery says the work of Chapter 9 institutions should not be treated as less important than that of law enforcement agencies.

Much more still needs to be done to deepen democracy and good governance in South Africa, Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffery says.

Jeffery gave a keynote address at the Corruption and Human Rights Conference on Monday. The virtual conference runs until Wednesday and is being held by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in collaboration with the Public Protector's Office.

The Office of the Auditor-General and the Public Service Commission were also part of the conference. 

The three-day event aims to bring together several stakeholders to debate and discuss matters like the impact of corruption on human rights in South Africa and how to respond to it.

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Jeffery said while government had some successes in fighting corruption in the country, it was important to ask how it happened in the first place.

He said while there was no question that the government had the legal framework and institutions to curb the scourge, it had still not been able to curtail the ills the same institutions sought to prevent. Jeffery said guardians of the Constitution often arrived at the scene of the crime last "when the damage is already done".

"The work of the Office of the Public Protector has led to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State. This has exposed some of the horrific details of allegations of corruption.

"The question that arises is: 'Where were our institutions when this happened?' Could they, and should they, not have prevented this? And if the answer is yes, then were they sufficiently empowered and resourced to be able to prevent it? Or were their remedial actions or reports ignored? And what lessons can they draw from what has been laid bare before the Zondo commission?" 

The deputy minister said it could also be argued that one of the things the government had not done well in recent years was to ensure that the work of Chapter 9 institutions did not gather dust.

He added that the work of these institutions should not be treated as less important than that of law enforcement agencies.

"If anything, the work of law enforcement institutions should be heavily predicated on reports and findings of these institutions. For example, findings of fruitless and wasteful expenditure by the Auditor-General should anchor investigations of corruption," Jeffery said.

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He said Auditor-General reports were given "teeth to bite". He said no more will they expose financial impunity without consequences, adding that law enforcement would be activated through the reports.

Jeffery said these actions needed urgent attention because they ran the risk of corruption, subverting good governance and undermining public trust in government.

"This may further reduce political participation by adding to growing cynicism about politics and the political process among citizens.

"For all of us, from the side of government and the institutions which are represented here..., it is clear that much more needs to be done in deepening democracy and good governance in South Africa.

"How do we do more to prevent corruption to manifest, how do we deter and uproot malfeasance? These are but some of the crucial questions which this conference will need to consider over the next three days," the deputy minister said.

According to a concept note, the conference's expected outcomes were:

  • an effective anti-corruption body within an integrated, proactive or prevention response framework incorporating a human rights-based approach;
  • sustaining the momentum after the Zondo commission and other anti-corruption initiatives, and
  • increased public participation in anti-corruption activities.
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