The fight against corruption, dating back to 2005, was marred by unwilling political leaders, officials and state institutions who outright refused to do their jobs.
This was heard in evidence presented by former chairperson of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Themba Godi, during his testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Appearing at the inquiry for the first time on Monday morning, Godi did not mince his words about the chain of events which led to a gross lack of oversight over government’s financial management systems.
In 2014, the national executive took a decision that all supply chain management personnel throughout all government institutions must be vetted.
This was to ensure that the country’s budget was always handled by people whose integrity had already been tested. However, this was not done, an exasperated Godi said. The commission also heard that some supply chain management officials at state-owned enterprises refused to be vetted.
“When we called the State Security Agency [SSA], they said the regulations they have make it optional and so when they tried to vet the employees at SABC [South African Broadcasting Corporation] and Saps [South African Police Service], Transnet and SAA [South African Airways], they all refused and the whole thing stopped. So we are saying if vetting had been on personnel maybe we could have identified dubious characters,” he added.
Godi also relayed the story of an inter-ministerial anti-corruption task team which was formed in 2010 and chaired by then justice minister Jeff Radebe, a tale of a complete failure to launch.
“Seeing the rising levels of corruption, we called that task team and what we found was a very disorganised and dysfunctional structure which should have been the government’s spear in fighting corruption. Out of 42 cases about 40 were all resolved through plea bargaining.”
A history of such lenient punishment for stealing millions from government meant that the team’s goal of deterring and fighting corruption was never reached.
“A person who has a misused or caused the loss of millions of rands, R50 million, R60 million, 100 million got a five-year suspended sentence and fined R20,000 or R30,000. That can hardly be a cause of action that could cause the corrupt to pause and step back.”
A 2005 decision by government to create an integrated financial management system through modernisation did not have a business case until last year, the commission also heard.
This modernisation would have allowed for the full automation of auditing and monitoring systems, lifting government out of its stone-age paper system, which saw hundreds of important financial documents lost to the Department of Health during the Bank of Lisbon fire in Johannesburg in 2018.
“The business case was only done in 2020 for a project that started that long and in between, there has been so much mismanagement stopping and starting the process.
“There has been a forensic investigation that cost about R4.7 million and no action has been taken against officials. If government had managed that system well, we would not be sitting here and if we did it would be under very different circumstances.”
Godi’s testimony continued.
Watch the proceedings below, courtesy of the SABC.