FIGHTING CORRUPTION NEEDS POLITICAL WILL

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Leader in the Gauteng Legislature

I love whistle blowers.

They are indispensable in exposing corruption and other wrong-doing.

They contact me in all manner of ways.

It often starts with an anonymous call.

Or an email from a specially created account.

Documents are sometimes just faxed or posted.

If anonymity is discarded, we will meet at a shopping centre or restaurant.

A recent source told me a sadly typical story of blatant corruption in a government agency.

A report by a legal firm had found massive irregularities and recommended action against top managers.

Shocked Board members who agreed with this were forestalled as it was decided that another investigation was needed to check the findings.

After many months, the second report confirmed the first report.

A majority of audit committee members wanted to suspend those implicated, but the chairperson halted the meeting before a decision could be made.

The politicians then stepped in, and all those who wanted to act on the reports were removed.

Yet another report was commissioned, which yet again confirmed the original findings.

You would have thought there was now no place to hide, but incredibly a fourth report was commissioned.

This meant more needless delay and expense as each investigation cost close to R1 million.

When the last report pointed again to massive corruption top managers were suspended.

But nothing came of it, and they were soon back at work.

It’s a sorry cover-up tale that is quite common. This is despite legislation that makes it an offence not to lay criminal charges if one is aware of corruption that involves more than R100 000.

It is officially estimated that about R30 billion a year is lost through corruption in South Africa.

I think the damage is even higher as corrupt contractors often don’t do a proper job, and there is more expense to fix the mess.

I gained a new understanding of inefficiency when an informant told me this was deliberate as it made it difficult to trace corruption.

If documents are missing then little can be proved. The Auditor-General has to issue a disclaimer, which means that there is not enough evidence to give an opinion.

This is why it is vitally important that deviation from accounting procedures be sanctioned severely

Gross negligence is actually a criminal offence under the Public Finance Management Act that can lead to five years in jail.

We have good anti-corruption legislation, but enforcement is abysmal.

I laid a charge against the accounting officer who signed irregular motorsport contracts that cost the Gauteng provincial government about R700 million to cancel.

But the public prosecutor declined to prosecute.

I suspect the real reason was the incompetence of the police commercial crimes division in putting a case together.

A visit to their Johannesburg office is profoundly depressing. Computers are from the flickering green and black era, and e-mail is unreliable.

Ugly brown files are used with hand-written entries. Everyone there seems to work in slow motion.

So no surprise that I was recently asked to resubmit a charge because a file had got lost.

Corruption will only be defeated when there is top level political will and well-resourced qualified people who pursue all cases relentlessly.

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