Fight clever on corruption

Jack Bloom MPL

Caucus Leader

According to reports, the Arms Procurement Commission has disregarded more than 4 million documents on the arms deal.

There is a strong suspicion that the commission is ignoring documents that would implicate President Jacob Zuma and other top ANC officials.

This may well be true, but wading through so many documents is daunting under any circumstances.

The documents are in three large shipping containers. Merely providing an index and filing them properly would be an immense task.

It would need an army of skilled investigators to analyse all these documents thoroughly.

A clever lawyer can tie up an investigation almost indefinitely with appeals and fine points of law.

Delay is always a good tactic for a guilty party as memories fade or witnesses become no longer available.

Our courts are achingly slow, and postponements can be obtained quite easily with various excuses.

Another hazard is incompetent prosecution.

The National Prosecuting Authority was widely seen as negligent in the Fidentia Fund scandal.

After six years the state was only able to convict Fidentia head J Arthur Brown on two out of 192 counts.

He got off with only a R150 000 fine.

I have myself experienced how incompetence stymies a proper investigation and prosecution of suspected corruption.

When I laid a charge under the Public Finance Management Act, the commercial crimes investigator said he didn’t have a copy of the Act.

I gave him my own copy, but it didn’t seem to help much.

The case was against the accounting officer who signed irregular multi-million rand motorsports contracts.

When these were cancelled by former Economic Affairs MEC Firoz Cachalia, he said that this saved R600 million.

But the prosecutor declined to prosecute despite the PFMA clause that makes gross negligence a criminal offence.

Is a loss of R600 million from irregular contracts not gross enough?

The Hawks have taken three years to investigate nine fishy Gauteng Health Department contracts worth R1 billion, with no prosecutions as yet.

They could have probed more contracts, but I was told they were only doing those involving more than R50 million.

It’s quite unbelievable that a crooked R49 million contract would therefore be totally ignored.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela has more zeal, but her office has too few investigators to deal with a massive backlog of cases.

It’s more than a year since I referred the Gauteng toll contracts to her, but I have received no feedback whatsoever.

So even when there is the firm will to investigate, a lack of resources leads to inaction.

I have come to the conclusion that a more targeted approach is needed to fight corruption effectively.

Instead of trying to nail a suspect on every possible infringement, investigators should concentrate on the three or four simplest and easiest to prove charges.

They would only need one serious charge to stick.

It’s a similar strategy to that which jailed Chicago gangster Al Capone on a tax charge.

We will not win the war against corruption unless we learn to fight clever with the available resources.