The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) has signed an anti-corruption pledge alongside independent statutory body the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and seeks to solicit the commitment of infrastructure and construction sector players to also maintain good integrity and ethical standards.
The pledge, which forms part of multi-sectoral body the Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF), will be circulated to all built environment industry bodies.
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said during a signing ceremony held on June 30 that corruption was another pandemic in South Africa and called for every effort to be made to fight corruption.
She added that the prevention and combatting of corruption requires education, behavioural change and a multi-pronged approach from all levels of society.
“Corruption is a societal problem and fighting it is everyone’s business,” De Lille asserted.
The IBACF was launched in May last year to foster collaboration among key role-players, including law enforcement agencies, construction sector regulators, civil society, government departments and the private sector to monitor infrastructure projects more effectively and put systems in place to detect and prevent corruption.
Particularly, the forum was a strategic intervention and investigation oversight body to mitigate the threat of corruption in the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) approved by Cabinet in May 2020, through detection and prevention systems.
The DPWI, together with the SIU, had brought various private and public sector representatives onboard the forum, including from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the Council for the Built Environment and Business Unity South Africa, which have met several times since the launch of the IBACF.
These meetings have culminated in development of an IBACF implementation plan; a case assessment framework; a built environment code of conduct; a pledge against corruption; an online anti-corruption training course as part of the built environment’s academic curriculum; and discussions with stakeholders regarding the use of data analytics and data modelling to generate trend and predictive analysis reports.
These reports serve to inform the IBACF prevention, advisory and awareness initiatives. For example, these data analytics exercises help find loopholes in legislation that render it vulnerable to corrupt practices. It also points out where procurement controls can be improved in regulations.
The implementation plan is focused on preventing corruption through strategies that lower the likelihood of corruption occurring; real-time monitoring of corrupt activities and detecting such activities through whistle-blower initiatives and real-time audits; independent and speedy investigations; and implementing consequence management where there is evidence of wrongdoing.
In turn, the case assessment framework has been developed to regulate how the reported allegations of corruption in the built environment will be handled. It deals with the roles and functions of the IBACF steering committee, receipt and registration of cases and assessment and referral of cases.
De Lille highlighted the other work the SIU had done for the DPWI in fighting corruption, including 6 978 investigations having been conducted under Presidential proclamations. Of these cases, 6 623 have been finalised and 355 are still pending.
Out of 91 disciplinary referrals to the DPWI, 86 cases have been finalised and five remain pending.
The sanctions for finalised cases range from dismissals, found not guilty, resigned before the hearings, death, or retired before finalisation of cases, final warnings and suspension without pay.
About 292 criminal referrals have been made to law enforcement agencies, relating to SIU corruption investigations. Of these, 18 have been finalised and 240 matters are before the NPA for consideration, while 23 cases were referred to the South African Revenue Services for further investigation. Six of these cases are still with the South African Police Service for investigation, and five cases are in court proceedings.
The SIU was in the process of recovering R1.3-billion worth of civil courts and tribunal claims, as of June 30.
SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi agreed with De Lille that too much money is being spent after corruption has taken place to establish commissions of inquiry, or efforts to repair damages to society and businesses.
He stressed that government could not fight corruption alone and implored the private sector, greater society and law enforcement agencies to make a concerted effort towards combatting corruption.
Mothibi noted the importance of consequence management. “If we are to deter and win the war against corruption, we have to ensure that those who are guilty suffer the consequences.”
Anti-Corruption Task Team chairperson and Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya said the infrastructure sector was particularly vulnerable to corruption, and hence its prioritisation across various anti-corruption working groups.
He admitted that corruption was not always easy to detect and that it has been a constant challenge in South Africa.
Lebeya was, however, optimistic about the SIU and the Hawks’ average 90% conviction rate for its investigations since 2018.
In closing the signing ceremony, the speakers encouraged members of the public to report any alleged corruption or fraud on projects within the IIP to the SIU whistleblowing hotline – 0800 037 774 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.