Just Another Anti-corruption Farce?

24 May 2012 Chris Hattingh MPL Provincial Leader Democratic Alliance North West

The North West Premier’s announcement that a special task team to expedite corruption cases will be established should normally be welcomed and will indeed be by the uninformed. However as the NWPG is in the budget debate season the announcement should be weighed against the previous annual anticorruption promises.

Every single NW Premier has announced new initiatives against fraud and corruption including several “Fraud Hot-lines” during State of the Province addresses and budget debates. Not a single anti-corruption hot-line is functional in the North West.

No report about any success or failure has ever been tabled in the Legislature. A response to a recent DA question to the Premier revealed that 43 investigations / forensic investigations were commissioned into NW Government Departments during the past three years at a cost of ten’s of millions to the taxpayer. Not a single report has been tabled in the Legislature to date.

In addition the Premier, in her previous budget speech, with reference to fraud and corruption indicated that in 2011

* 244 cases were carried over from the previous year;

* 96 new cases were added;

* 127 cases were prosecuted and finalised;

* 33 cases were returned to SIU and

* 180 cases were in various stages of investigation and prosecution.

But, unlike in other provinces or parliament no report of any of these investigations has ever been tabled in the Legislature – the secretive perpetuation of fraud and corruption continues to be the best guarded secret of the NWPG!!

The increase in cases of fraud and corruption in the NW Government and the lack of transparency dealing with it, contrary to the frequent lip-service to eradicate it, coincided with the moving of the NW Anti-corruption Unit from the NW Treasury to the Premier’s Office.

The Public Service Commission in a Report dated March 2012 stated that in the North West

“The post Structure of the Forensic Unit consists of nine vacant positions” and “Handling of corruption cases resided with the Security Services Directorate and only one Assistant Director with less than one year experience, is assigned the responsibility of handling anti-corruption cases.” It is therefore mind-boggling that the Premier intends to appoint a Special Task Team to do what the Forensic Unit situated in her Office failed to do.

The secretive handling of fraud and corruption cases by the North West Provincial Government should also be seen in line with the Public Service Commission Report that the North West is the worst performing province achieving only 21% on the evaluated transparency principle.

The Premier’s performance on the combatting of crime and corruption demands that the Anti-corruption Unit should be removed from her direct control and that it should be reporting to an independent forum free from political interference.

Until then the Premier’s anticorruption announcements and utterances will remain only that and will the North West Province continue to be the fraud and corruption capital of South Africa.

The reluctance of the Premier to really walk her anti-corruption talks and her refusal to become transparent on anti-corruption initiatives gives credibility to Zwelinzima Vavi’s statements:

* “We’re headed for a predator state where a powerful, corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas are increasingly using the state to get rich,”

* “Just like the “hyena and her daughters” eat first in nature, the “chief of state’s family eats first” in this predator state.”

* “We have to intervene now to prevent South Africa from becoming a state where corruption is the norm and no business can be done with government without first paying a corrupt gatekeeper.”

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