Jul 13, 2012
Corruption Watch eyes risks in SA’s R850bn infrastructure planBack
Africa|Defence|Design|Industrial|Systems|Africa|South Africa|Energy|Energy Programme|Online Portal|Systems|David Lewis|Infrastructure
© Reuse this
Executive director David Lewis tells Engi- neering News the programme, which government aims to use to stimulate industrial devel- opment, create jobs and accelerate growth, needs to be designed in such a way that it does not become a “hot spot” for dishonest activities and unscrupulous opportunists.
It is acceptable, from a policy perspective, to pay a higher price for local content that could yield jobs, skills and introduce new technology. But Lewis says that price will only be worth paying in a context where there is sound governance and transparency of the cost and benefits. Otherwise, there is a risk that companies may establish themselves “simply to grease the wheels”, which would leave society picking up the tab, while further eroding the citizenry’s already fragile trust in the public sector.
“What I know about the ‘arms deal’ is that it wasn’t so much local content, but local intermediation between foreign suppliers and the Defence Force that became corrupt – in other words, deriving local rents from facilitating connectedness between the seller and the buyer.”
The scale of the programme is the primary reason for Corruption Watch’s emerging interest in infrastructure. The energy programme alone, Lewis muses, could make the arms deal “look like a rounding error”.
The organisation is, thus, considering replicating an approach taken by a Russian online portal, which tracks tenders and invites comments on ‘irregularities’, particularly from losing bidders. Such profiling could provide an early warning of compromises in tender processes.
The organisation is also eager to recruit a programme manager with intimate knowledge of public tender processes so that its interventions are based on a sound understanding of the risks inherent in such processes.
Besides infrastructure, Corruption Watch, which has it roots in the Congress of South African Trade Unions, is also planning to consolidate its ‘engagement’ with the business community more generally.
Through this contract, it aims not only to highlight the threats associated with corrupt tender processes, but also to help raise awareness of the scourge, as well as debate about the potential remedies.
Lewis is particularly keen to tap into the internal communication channels of large business to extend the anticorruption message to both employees and customers. “We would like to put a more constructive spin on how corruption might be combated.”
The problem, currently, is that the risk- reward balance remains skewed in favour of the corrupt, evidenced, Lewis argues, by the fact that those engaging in such activities are often unafraid to flaunt the fruits of their ill-gotten gains through the purchase of new cars or other visible assets.
“It reminds me a little bit of the early days of the competition authorities,” the former Competition Tribunal chairperson adds. “Corrupt people feel so well protected . . . so certain that the risks of getting caught are really low, which leads them to leaving the most extraordinary evidence lying around.”
Therefore, even though the organisation has no statutory powers, such impunity has already created an opportunity for it to begin to expose corruption through basic desktop research and investigation.
In total, it has received over 2 000 complaints, ranging from corruption among traffic officers and Home Affairs officials to nepotism in appointments in small towns, which is resulting in allegations of budget pillaging.
It will work with the enforcement agencies where possible to secure evidence of corruption, but Lewis says a strong focus is mobilising opposition against the problem.
“There has to be robust prosecution and that has to be perceived as part of the risk . . . but you can’t solve this problem by serial acts of prosecution alone. There will always be more coming in the back door than you manage to get out the front door.”
Prosecutions should be complemented by “naming and shaming”, helping to design systems that disable corruption and the mobilisation of an “outraged citizenry”.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other News This Week News
Updated 5 hours ago Despite a record year, Tongaat Hulett’s starch and cellulose division was impacted by load-shedding during the year ended March 31, CEO Peter Staude said in a telephone interview on Monday. “The starch and glucose operation, which is the only wet-miller in...
Updated 6 hours ago The Competition Commission has referred a case of alleged collusion against JSE-listed construction materials company Dawn, along with its subsidiaries DPI Plastics, Ubuntu Plastics and Sangio Pipes, to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution. The commission alleged...
Updated 7 hours ago JSE-listed Rhodes Food Group grew its turnover 12.4% to R1.3-billion for the six months ended March 29, while normalised operating profit was up 17.3% to R126-million, the company reported at its interim results presentation on Monday. The company’s normalised...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
While economic forecasts for the African continent are most favourable, African airlines may not be able to benefit from the expected growth in the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), International Air Transport Association VP: Africa Raphael Kuuchi has warned....
The Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) will need to change substantially post 2020, says Metair Investments South African operations COO Ken Lello. “We must not make tweaks. We have to change. What we are doing is not sustainable.”
Banking group Absa’s forecast is for the rand to end the year at around R13 against the dollar, weakening further to R13.50 by 2016, says Absa sectoral analyst Jacques du Toit. He warns that possible interest rate hikes in the US may see capital being pulled from...
The Dispute Resolution Centre at the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) is now open to handle party-to-party disputes. The BCCEI represents the interests of all level four to nine Construction Industry Development Board companies.
Communications technology firm Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa head Fredrik Jejdling says the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility has been integrated into all facets of its operations, which has provided it with sustainable revenue...