Mzansi Afrika

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Corruption in SA

One of the big news stories in South Africa today is the National Anti-Corruption Summit taking place today and tomorrow. This is all about evaluating government's anti-corruption strategies and charting the way forward. So how bad is corruption in South Africa?

Transparency International (TI) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) released a new corruption survey yesterday. The report finds that South Africa has made tremendous progress in addressing corruption in the ten short years since the end of corrupt apartheid-era rule. South Africa has developed an advanced framework of law, strategy and institutions with a mandate to combat corruption. The report notes the creation of new specialised anti-corruption institutions with a constitutional remit to support democracy. South Africa has developed a bold new piece of anti-corruption law in the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which complements existing legislation that promotes an open accountable democracy. However, according to Transparency South Africa's Hassen Lorgat, although political will to tackle corruption exists, the implementation of anti-corruption measures still presents a serious challenge.

The report also stresses that corruption poses a major challenge at provincial and local government level, negatively affecting the capacity of the public sector to deliver services to the poor. According to the report, 'at a national level, almost R2 billion was lost in 2003 to corruption in social welfare, [and] the labour ministry may have lost as much as R1 billion.' The study also states that corruption and fraud in the private sector may cost the economy as much as R50 billion.

Unfortunately one of the biggest corruption busting institutions, the Scorpions is currently under threat. Let's hope they are kept as an independent body and not brought under the police.

Here's a compilation of other interesting corruption stats:

A comparison between the 1998 and 2003 national victims of crime surveys suggests that the rate of corruption has almost tripled from 2% to 5.6%. (Source: Institute for Security Studies National Victims of Crime Survey).

In 2004, South Africa scored 4.6 out of a total of 10 points in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The CPI score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt). This put South Africa at number 44 with the two most corruptly perceived countries ranking 145. (Source:CPI 2004).

While half of South Africans felt in 1997 that "all" or "most" national government officials were involved in corruption, just one fifth held this opinion in October/November 2004.(Source:Afrobarometer Survey by Idasa).

Where half felt "all" or "most" MPs were corrupt as recently as 2000, just one quarter (24 percent) think so in 2004. (Source:Afrobarometer Survey by Idasa).

In 2004, 36 percent of South Africans did, however, feel that "all" or "most" police are corrupt. However, the survey shows public perceptions of corruption are at far higher levels than their actual experience with corruption. (Source:Afrobarometer Survey by Idasa).

About one in 10 South Africans say that they had to "pay a bribe, give a gift, or do a favour" for a government official in the past year to get an official document or permit (11 percent), avoid a problem with the police (10 percent), or get a household service such as water or electricity (nine percent). (Source:Afrobarometer Survey by Idasa).

Many analysts say that people's perceptions of corruption are a lot worse than the reality. However, the corruption at provincial and local government level is extremely worrying - it affects service delivery and long-term stability. No excuses, and no justification - government needs to clamp down and take the problem seriously.

Going back to the ISS report, it makes some interesting and controversial recommendations. Such as investigating crimes of corruption under apartheid so that plundered wealth can be returned to the South Africa's people. The last decade of apartheid rule, as the corrupt system was interminal decline, provided the perfect environment for large-scale corruption. The lack of transparency, sanctions busting and secret defence and oil funds were excellent conduits for grand corruption. According to the report while this should not detract from the tasks ahead, anti-corruption agencies should investigate the reclamation of such stolen assets. My question is would the money go back to South Africa's people in the form of service delivery or would it go into some corrupt politician's back pocket as pay back.

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