Covid-19 may exacerbate the abuse of power – Corruption Watch

31st March 2020 By: Sane Dhlamini - Creamer Media Researcher and Writer

Covid-19 may exacerbate the abuse of power – Corruption Watch

Corruption Watch executive director, David Lewis

Not-for-profit organisation Corruption Watch (CW) on Tuesday released its yearly corruption report with executive director David Lewis  saying South Africans should not expect corruption to lessen during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This year’s report is themed “The Writing is on the Wall” and shows public outing of corruption through 3 694 whistle-blower reports.

Lewis said the report was a testament that throughout 2019, the public continued to expose corrupt individuals who were intent on abusing their power and looting public resources in key sectors.

He said individuals were robbed of access to their fundamental right to safety and security and basic services through corruption in policing, schools, healthcare and the mining sector.

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the consequences of corruption in local government, public health and the water sectors.

“We should not expect corruption to abate in the teeth of this public health crisis. On the contrary, the crisis may exacerbate the abuse of power and resources that accompany the necessary relaxation of procurement regulations and the extension of emergency powers to law enforcement. As attention turns elsewhere, unscrupulous elements in the private sector will engage in price gouging and procurement corruption,” he said.

The public needed to remain vigilant and committed to exposing corruption even as life is dominated by the necessity to limit the spread of the virus, he added.

REPORT FIGURES

CW received an average of ten reports a day, which Lewis said demonstrated the public’s commitment to continue to expose corrupt individuals.

The highest number of reports were received in the policing sector at 12%, followed by schools at 10%; while mining, traffic and licensing came in at 9%, and healthcare at 4%.

Bribery, at 17%, was most recorded, followed by procurement corruption at 16% and mismanagement of funds at 15%.

The data also shows that 29% of corruption reports involve national government, a 2% increase from 2018, while local government counts for 26% of this, and provincial government 20%. A fifth of the reports, 19%, are directed to the private sector.

“As in previous years, most reports were received from Gauteng (at 47%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal at 10%, and Limpopo at 9%, the latter featuring in the top three provinces for the second year in a row. It is not surprising that Gauteng remains in the lead as the highest populated province, the most economically active and where the seat of national government is located,” explained Lewis.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Lewis said the organisation’s activities continue to focus on promoting social justice and human rights, incorporating the lessons learned from combating corruption during the State capture era of the past eight years.

Part of the work includes identifying gaps in the legal and policy framework, greater transparency in the appointment of public sector leaders, and in holding key private sector firms and professions to account for their complicity in corruption.

Among the significant wins in the area of strategic litigation during 2019 were the successful review of the Seriti Commission, which Lewis said represented an important vindication for CW and its fellow not-for-profit organisation Right2Know.

“Important legal precedent was also established by the ruling requiring Cash Paymaster Services to pay back the R316-million which it had unlawfully acquired from the South African Social Security Agency,” he said.

On the health sector, which has received significant attention owing to the National Health Insurance, Lewis said the public healthcare system continues to crumble in the face of corruption.

He said that the factors that have contributed to its deterioration over the years include highlighted irregular expenditure, financial misconduct, theft and moonlighting.

“As a result, the organisation is taking these concerns forward and is an active participant in the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, officially launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, in response to the dire state of the healthcare system in the country,” he added.

Lewis also encouraged the public to continue exposing corruption.

Click here to read the report.