Renewed focus on corruption

2016-02-01 10:43

Maybe it’s electioneering, maybe it’s a New Year’s resolution or maybe I am being optimistic, but I am noticing a renewed focus on corruption in SA over the year to date. Whatever the reason, may it continue and build even more momentum. Unless actively countered, corruption will rear its ugly head, whether in politics, sport or business. Corruption does not care about income level, political affiliation, profession, race or religion. All that corruption cares about is opportunity, lack of transparency and lack of repercussions.

I would like to reiterate Robert Klitgaard’s corruption formula (which I discussed in a previous blog): corruption (C) = monopoly (M) + discretion (D) – accountability (A). The first term means that in a country or institution where the leadership has a great deal of power, either because it is a dictatorship (no elections being held) or where opposition is weak, corruption is likely to be much greater than in a democratic or free country or institution. The second term means that corruption is more likely in a country or institution where there is limited transparency of processes, where processes are not clearly defined and where there is limited oversight. The third term means that in an environment where corruption goes unpunished or where punishment is light, corruption is much more likely to be prevalent. What I take from this equation is that, especially in large institutions controlling large amounts of money, corruption is the most likely outcome, unless it is actively countered.

We have been speaking about it for a long time in SA, but there does seem to be a renewed focus on corruption in 2016 so far. Not just are opposing political parties going out of their way to identify corruption (or perceived corruption), institutions (including political parties) are speaking out about corruption in their own ranks. There have been numerous examples during this year so far.

According to the Sunday Times, Cosatu and SACP leaders “went public with their growing irritation at the influence the Guptas are said to have” at “the ANC’s NEC lekgotla”, while the EFF called for a “Gupta-linked” minister to be removed from parliament. It will be interesting to see whether the concerns about the Guptas gains momentum.

The DA raised concerns about a letter by Beaufort West mayor, Truman Prince, in which he discussed upcoming tenders and his desire “for these companies to inject funds into our election campaign process”. The ANC in the Western Cape was quick to respond, condemning Prince’s “lapse in judgement” and his “misguided attempts to raise funds” for the party. Whether further steps will be taken against Prince and whether he will be named as mayoral candidate for Beaufort West is still to be seen.

During last week, Cosatu wrote an open letter to Cape Town mayor, Patricia de Lille and Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela about alleged “nepotistic practices” relating to the employment of two individuals in the Provincial Government and the City administration. The DA has yet to respond to this letter publicly.

The EFF has recently stated that it is “ready to take President Zuma head-on again during the opening of Parliament”. In an interview this weekend, EFF president, Julius Malema, said “Zuma will have to explain why he fired minister Nhlanhla Nene before addressing the nation”. The state of the nation address occurs two days after the Constitutional Court hearing which the EFF brought to compel President Zuma “to pay back the money” relating to Nkandla.

Following allegations of “financial mismanagement” against SARU CEO, Jurie Roux, the DA’s shadow minister of sports and recreation called for him to be suspended. SARU has not yet announced any actions against Roux, but have denied any knowledge of “an inquiry into his employment at Stellenbosch” during his appointment process.

Last week Cricket SA imposed a 20-year ban on former Proteas cricketer Gulam Bodi who was charged with “contriving to fix, or otherwise improperly influence aspects of the 2015 Ram Slam T20 tournament”. They stated that “Our attitude to corruption will always be one of zero tolerance”.

On top of all these developments, there was also some good news last week with SA moving from 67th to 61st place on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in 2015 (out of 168 countries).  According to Corruption Watch, “The opinion makers surveyed for the CPI see evidence that key pockets of government are deeply concerned about corruption” and that this was “particularly true of important opinion shapers such as National Treasury”. However, it is not all good news, with 83% of South African surveyed by the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) believing that corruption was increasing. According to Corruption Watch, “Their perceptions are equally valid. The good work of those serious about combating corruption is overshadowed by those who continue to behave with impunity.” It will be interesting to see what steps the reappointed Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, will take to combat corruption. In my opinion, he is in a very strong position to take positive steps.

We certainly have too much corruption in SA, which reduces the efficiency of our institutions, affects our ability to achieve targeted outcomes and negatively impacts the perception of the average South African. However, corruption remains top of mind and there is a good chance that the situation will improve as the year progresses. There is nothing like elections to focus the minds of politicians on looking for corruption amongst their competitors, but also t0 keep their own house in order. In my opinion, we are heading towards the most closely fought municipal election in SA since the democratic dispensation. May this encourage our ruling party and opposition movements to do just that, to target corruption. And once the elections are a thing of the past, may we retain some of that focus going forward.

Do you see an increased focus on corruption in SA? Do you think more is being done about it than before? Do you think the elections have something to do with this? Do you think that increased political competition will lead to reduced corruption? I would love to hear your feedback. Comments are welcome on my website.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

#Corruption #MyHandsAreClean

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

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