Let’s help SA recover with integrity
Let’s help SA recover with integrity
Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of International Anti-Corruption Day, established after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Convention against Corruption in October 2013. This year’s theme is “Recover with Integrity”.
According to the UN website, corruption “attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the solicitation of bribes.” Corruption also stunts economic development because direct foreign investment is discouraged, and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the ‘start-up costs’ required because of corruption.
The world today is a very different place from when this day was established, with governments and citizens globally uniting to fight the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Locally, our democracy is fighting for its life because of the societal, political and economic impact of a different kind of pandemic: corruption. Not only State Capture – which without a doubt had a significant impact on our country - but also the fallout of decades of historical corruption, all of which plunged the country into significant debt. Then came COVID-19, and government had to borrow an additional R500bn internationally to fight the virus.
Corruption reached an all-time high when it transpired that a significant percentage of these funds was plundered. Instead of being used for alleviating the poverty caused by lockdowns, hiring additional front line health workers, supplying personal protective equipment and financing a vaccine to protect all citizens, the money was looted by unethical individuals in government and the private sector with scant regard for the impact of their behaviour.
SA is facing an uphill battle to get debt and borrowing under control. South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio soaring to its highest levels since 1994, with very little to show for it. National Treasury also expects our debt to GDP ratio to reach 95% in the next five years.
Julius Kleynhans, OUTA’s Executive Manager: Public Governance Division, says parliamentary oversight has become wanting. “Parliament is supposed to provide the oversight needed to ensure Government performs well and hold the leadership to account. State Capture happened under the watch of Parliament and we are yet to see anyone being held accountable.” Kleynhans says it is unacceptable that MP’s, who took an oath to act in the best interest of the people of South Africa, so often put their political peers and parties above the country.
“Political parties have lost the plot and OUTA believes that independent candidates may bring much needed change to South Africa. We also need to see better civil oversight on the performance of Parliament to ensure that the institution acts in the best interest of South Africa and that the very members that represent us, are accountable and honourable.”
OUTA says policies that can root out corruption by strengthening transparency in procurement and performance, is long overdue. “The country also needs removing some of the red tape for responsible business development and also to strengthen accountability of those in authority.”
Now is the time for government and civil society to work together to eliminate corruption, stimulate economic development and encourage foreign investment. “We call on government to strengthen law enforcement agencies and the National Prosecuting Authority so that the corrupt can be held accountable,” says Adv Stefanie Fick, Executive Director of OUTA’s Accountability Division. “We need ethical leadership with a zero tolerance for corruption. At the same time, we call on South Africans to become involved in the fight against corruption. We all need to say a firm no to corruption in any form.”