Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) head Advocate Andy Mothibi on May 24 launched the new Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF).
They were also joined by Public Prosecutions Deputy National Director Advocate Rodney De Kock and Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) head Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
The IBACF is an initiative by the Anti-Corruption Task Team, government and civil society, together with the built environment sector.
It will monitor infrastructure projects more effectively and put systems in place to detect and prevent corruption.
The initiative comes at a time when South Africa has embarked on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan approved by Cabinet in May 2020. Cabinet also approved the establishment of ISA as the administrative arm responsible for monitoring the implementation of the plan.
The establishment of this IBACF is in line with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy which was approved by Cabinet in November 2020 to help step up the fight against corruption and fraud in the country.
The forum also aligns with one of the seven key priorities of the sixth administration, which is to build a capable, ethical and developmental State.
“Corruption within the built environment has run rampant for too long. The State has structures in place but government cannot do this work alone and that is why we have brought the private sector, public entities and civil society together in this forum so that we can work on more effective ways to detect, prevent and act against corruption,” De Lille said.
“Anyone involved in corrupt activities and found guilty of such must face consequences. They must face the full might of the law. We must work together to put an end to this scourge because corruption steals from the poor.
“We also need a clear path to delivering quality infrastructure to create the crowding in effect of more investment by the private sector,” the Minister added.
Mothibi said that, based on the SIU’s investigations under various proclamations over the years totalling over R10-billion to date, is that the construction sector is vulnerable to, besides others, price fixing, high Construction Industry Development Board gradings being issued to non-deserving contractors, and the issuing of illegal environmental permits for large developers to develop infrastructure in sensitive environmental areas.
There is also an issue of defrauding the State through the use of substandard construction material to make more profit and the use of fees, bribery or kickbacks to secure work, besides others.
The ISA has in the last year, upon request, worked with the SIU on some cases.
The IBACF is led by the SIU and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and also includes representatives from a number of other industry bodies in the country.
The role-players have specifically been approached in consultation with the SIU to ensure inclusive and widespread oversight and the ability to take action when needed.
The mandate of the forum is to collaborate, consult and support and cooperate with one another to fight fraud and corruption in the sector through criminal prosecution and civil litigation, as well as through prevention initiatives such as corruption risk assessments, awareness programmes, identification and detection of corruption, controls improvement, systemic recommendations, monitoring and reporting.
The forum will have oversight of investigations and will see various agencies working together to investigate any reported and alleged corruption so that we enhance accountability in the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment Plan projects.
The forum members have agreed that one of its main and immediate areas of work will be to look into how whistle-blowers can be incentivised and rewarded for coming forward with information on corruption that leads to successful prosecution.
The forum has an operational structure or steering committee that manages its day-to-day operations.
This committee will receive information about allegations of fraud and corruption in the infrastructure and/or construction sector and assess them based on objective criteria that have been developed.
This process will determine which entity is best suited to investigate the matter based on the respective mandate that they bring to the Forum.
Members such as the South African Police Services, the SIU and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have statutory powers which will be invoked in dealing with the allegations reported to the forum.
Representatives on the forum may also bring allegations to the forum and, where required, the relevant professional body will take the necessary remedial action.
The parties will work together to collect information for the investigations, ensure all due processes are followed and act on the allegations in terms of the various pieces of legislation and statutory powers of forum members such as the SIU and the NPA.
At the inaugural meeting of the forum last week, all members agreed that prevention strategies and work were crucial.
Members of the public can report allegations of corruption or fraud in the Infrastructure Investment Plan projects to the SIU whistleblowing hotline – 0800 037 774 or via email to email@example.com.
The forum will also be setting up a dedicated line and email address for people to report matters directly to its secretariat.