OUTA’S ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2022/23: THIS IS HOW WE USED YOUR DONATIONS
Our government continues to fail us by not prioritising the war against corruption, and OUTA’s projects over the past year reflect the failure by government to acknowledge and block corruption.
There are encouraging spots of renewal and courage in sectors of law enforcement and prosecution services, but rebuilding skills, improving resources and uprooting resistance by state capture beneficiaries significantly hampers action. We still have people holding positions as ministers, politicians and senior government officials who were either implicated in corruption or failed to oppose it. Funds are still siphoned off routinely. Municipal councils fight over access to the finances. Government has the full State Capture Commission final report but fails to implement its recommendations.
Many of our projects challenge government decisions which appear to benefit small groups of individuals at public expense. Some of these government decisions are years old, but some are new, showing ongoing contempt for public interest.
In our ongoing legal challenge to the Karpowership independent power producer project, filed in April 2022, OUTA has called for a review of the generation licences which we believe were granted without due process and under a cloud of secrecy around the costs to electricity consumers and taxpayers. It will provide 1220 MW, which will save us less than two stages of loadshedding. We continue to demand access to the full unredacted decisions to award the licences, including how this will affect the cost of electricity. At the time we filed this case, the Karpowership cost was estimated at R220 billion over 20 years, before the price of liquid natural gas increased as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
In February 2023, we filed a legal challenge against Government’s decision to introduce the national state of disaster, in connection with electricity supply constraints. The electricity crisis was created by government over years, by a determined failure to address it through existing and adequate legislation. This state of disaster was eerily reminiscent of the Covid-19 state of disaster, which enabled massive looting, but more worrying is the fact that against the backdrop of an existing emergency energy plan, there was no real need to declare the state of disaster. On 5 April 2023, as a result of our legal action, government ended the state of disaster.
In our legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) and its amendment, we are challenging a law that appears to be designed to collect funds for a state-owned entity solely for the sake of collecting funds, with little effective road safety enforcement in evidence. We filed this case in July 2020, won in the Pretoria High Court in January 2022 when the court ruled that AARTO is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court must confirm declarations of unconstitutionality; our case has been heard in the Concourt and we await the judgment.
We are still involved in three legal challenges against the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral), who refused us access to documents on revenue flows and profitability of the three toll concessionaires. We are challenging these refusals in court. This is a public issue which lacks transparency and could very well introduce additional profits accrued from the concessionaires to the state.
In December 2022, we referred a criminal complaint to the National Prosecuting Authority against David Mabuza, who was Deputy President at the time, over long-standing, well-documented and publicly known allegations of serious corruption in Mpumalanga, which have been ignored for years by law enforcement.
In November 2022, we filed a criminal complaint with the SAPS over the abuse of funds by the Services Sector Education and Training Authority, a problem we exposed some years ago but which neither that entity nor law enforcement addressed. We are also investigating the National Student Financial Aid Scheme for flagrant misuse of funds which are meant for student support.
In October 2022, Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana announced the end of e-tolls. While this is a victory for civil society, we have requested an explanation for the astonishingly high debt that government says is still owed on the freeway upgrade and why Gauteng is expected to pick up 25% of this. Furthermore, the e-toll system still needs to be finalised and turned off, with a gazette to amend the original Gauteng freeway toll announcement.
We published our fourth annual report on oversight of Parliament, again finding that Parliament is a failed institution. Parliament’s failure to hold the executive to account, failure to hold departmental officials to account and failure to block funds to ruinously expensive and unproductive programmes and departments has been a crucial enabler of state capture. Parliament continues to fail South Africa, while the State Capture Commission’s recommendations are ignored.
OUTA continues to work with other civil society organisations. We are part of groups working towards electoral reform and for improved transparency on political party funding, which is essential in the run-up to the 2024 election as those implicated in state capture use their positions to entrench themselves. We are also part of groups which oppose state capture, provide support to the National Prosecuting Authority, oppose corruption, aim to improve public participation in Parliament and we are part of the broad front Defend Our Democracy. These are crucial partnerships.
OUTA acknowledges the essential role that whistleblowers play in defending democracy and clean governance. We are grateful to those who have provided us with information: over the year, OUTA received 101 reports from whistleblowers through our secure and anonymous Whispli platform. We follow up as many of these reports as possible, but must prioritise those that fall within our mandate, expertise and capacity. We believe that much more support and protection is needed for whistleblowers, and we call for the implementation of the State Capture Commission recommendations on this.
Our annual report details our work on these and other projects from March 2022 to February 2023. The OUTA in Action section is a chronological record of OUTA’s submissions, legal actions and interventions. The sections on OUTA Broadcasts and OUTA Bridge Brigade protests record our actions to alert and inform the public about issues. The OUTA Projects and OUTA Social Innovation Projects sections detail the projects we worked on this year.
We are grateful for the financial support from our supporters. Without you, this work would not be possible. Read our annual report here.