Gareth Cotterell
Digital News Editor
4 minute read
22 Sep 2021
5:21 pm

‘SA severely underperforming in fight against corruption’ – report paints dismal picture

Gareth Cotterell

Corruption Watch was also critical of the increasing danger that whistleblowers face.

Eastern Cape CI member convicted of corruption after 8.5 years. Picture: iStock

Corruption has continued unabated during the first half of 2021 and whistleblowers are increasingly at risk.

This is according to the “Analysis of Corruption Trends (ACT)” released by Corruption Watch on Wednesday.

It highlighted extortion by the police, sextortion by school principals and Covid-19 related graft.

Corruption within law enforcement agencies continues to plague South Africa.

The report “shows the violence with which ordinary civilians are met on a daily basis, sometimes at the hands of the very protectors of the law that is the police service”, the organisation said.

Whistleblowers reported abuse of authority (37%), dereliction of duty (34%), and bribery (22%) as the most common types of corruption they encountered. Most of the reports about police corruption came from Gauteng (46%), the Western Cape (16%) and KwaZulu-Natal (8%).

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Gauteng and the Western Cape are also the hotspots when it comes to corruption in the public housing sector. The corruption watchdog highlighted the illegal sale or occupation of RDP houses. 

“People who cannot afford to pay certain amounts of cash to secure such housing are cast aside and removed from the waiting list, while those who pay get advanced to the top of the list,” the report stated.

“In Cape Town, a whistleblower alleges that a housing department manager is selling low-income houses for R10,000 and those on the original list have been waiting for years while occupation of the houses takes place before their eyes.”

Incidents of Covid-19 corruption have also remained high since last year.

“Looting of the public purse through irregular contracts and inflated prices increased sharply and has continued, particularly in the healthcare sector.”

Most of the Covid-19 complaints are related to the social relief grant and the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters).

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Corruption Watch received complaints of government employees continuing to receive the R350 monthly grant, as well as an alleged syndicate operating in Brits, North West, which has pocketed grants meant for beneficiaries – allegedly with the assistance of Post Office officials.

There were also allegations of companies not paying over Ters money to employees.

“There are the same issues of employers claiming Ters funds on behalf of employees but do not pay them. At times, employees only pay a fraction of the Ters money to employees.”

Covid-19 corruption also spread to schools. Allegations related to procurement processes for PPE as well as donations of school clothing and food.

“Corruption Watch recorded complaints alleging the usurping of procurement powers by principals who then award contracts to companies known to them personally.”

Principals were accused of hiring unqualified teachers and even demanding sexual favours from teachers to keep their jobs.

“School principals are accused of having offered permanent employment to prospective teaching and administrative staff in exchange for sexual favours. For fear of victimisation within the sector, many of these cases go unreported.”

“Another school principal of a special needs school in Gauteng is alleged to be misusing school funds and threatens educators who raise concerns, telling them that they will not get permanent placement at the school.”

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The report was also critical of the increasing danger that whistleblowers in South Africa face.

“The recent gruesome murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran – a senior official in the Gauteng health department – will be engraved in our history as one of the chapters of violence used as an extreme means of possibly protecting corruption. It is instances like this, the end of a whistleblower’s life in a hail of bullets, that remind us of the need to stop and question where our efforts as a country are failing if corruption can be so assiduously protected at the expense of innocent, yet valuable lives.”

“Shocking as it is, Deokaran’s fate is unlikely to be the last that South Africa hears of, as many commentators have opined, and although the multiple arrests associated with the case are a step in the right direction, they have not removed the deep fear with which whistleblowers live daily, expecting similar if not the same repercussions for their bravery.”