Give graft-busting agencies sharper teeth – NDPWednesday, 15/08/2012 - 16:36
The capacity of corruption-fighting agencies needs to be enhanced, and these bodies must have political will and support, according to the revised National Development Plan (NDP). Click here to view downloading options.
The plan, presented to President Jacob Zuma during a joint sitting of parliament on Wednesday 15 August, says political will refers not only to public statements of support, but a commitment to providing sufficient resources and taking action against corrupt officials.
Political parties should strive to maintain ethical conduct among their members, and political leaders should realise the effect of their behaviour on the integrity of the office they hold.
The NDP says there has been insufficient commitment and continuity from the different sectors in the multi-sector anti-corruption forum (government, business, and civil society), and the institution is underfunded.
It says the forum has a valuable role to play in combating corruption at all levels in society, and efforts should be made to strengthen it with the necessary resources to be more effective.
Further, protection for whistleblowers is insufficient.
While the Protected Disclosures Act provides some protection, it does not do enough. The legislation has several weaknesses and the scope of protection in the law is too narrow.
The document recommends a review of the act. This review should consider expanding the scope of whistleblower protection outside the limits of "occupational detriment"; permit disclosure to bodies other than the public protector and the auditor-general; and, strengthen measures to ensure the security of whistleblowers.
Regulations to the act should be developed as soon as possible, and government departments must develop policies to implement it.
The plan further recommends centralised oversight of tenders of long duration, or those above a specific amount.
It says the vast range of tender opportunities in the public service has come with increased opportunities for corruption for both officials and contractors.
Mechanisms to manage integrity and promote ethical conduct in the public service include the public service code of conduct in the public service regulations, the financial disclosure framework, and supply chain management prescripts.
However, the implementation of these measures has been poor, leading to frustration about the delayed response of departments in preventing and combating corruption.
Implementation and adherence to the code of conduct is limited, with departments sometimes taking months to institute disciplinary processes against offending officials.
Reports by the Auditor-General indicate that a large number of government employees and their spouses have been involved in government contracts, raising suspicion of abuse of office.
This is despite there being rules in place in the public service code of conduct to prevent officials from engaging in transactions that may result in improper personal gain, or are in conflict with the execution of their official duties.
The NDP says non-compliance with the financial disclosure framework is endemic; managers are seldom sanctioned for failing to disclose their interests; and, departments do little with the information they receive.
Strengthening the accountability of public servants requires more consistent implementation of existing rules.
The plan recommends an accountability framework be developed, linking the liability of individual public servants to their responsibilities, in proportion to their seniority.
Rules restricting the business interests of public servants should be made more specific and clear.
A study should investigate expanding existing regulations and improving the institutional processes and capacity to manage the rules.
Restraint-of-trade agreements should be considered for senior civil servants and politicians at all levels of government, and corrupt officials should be made individually liable for losses.
Aim: accountable state
The National Planning Commission has singled out four areas of focus in which policies should be implemented to move towards an accountable state and zero-tolerance of corruption:
Building a resilient anti-corruption system - The focus of anti-corruption efforts should be on creating a resilient anti-corruption system that can operate freely from political interference and is supported by both public officials and citizens. A resilient system is one where the designated agencies have the capability and resources to investigate cases of corruption, leaders take action when problems are brought to their attention, citizens resist the temptation to pay bribes because they recognise that their individual actions contribute to a bigger problem, the private sector does not engage in corrupt practices, citizens are empowered to speak out against corruption and the media fulfils its investigative and reporting function to expose corruption in the public and private sector.
Strengthen accountability and responsibility of public servants - South African public servants should be made legally accountable as individuals for their actions, particularly in matters involving public resources.
Create an open, responsive and accountable public service - State information, including details of procurement, should be made openly available to citizens. Furthermore an information regulator should be established to adjudicate appeals when access to information requested is denied.
- Strengthen judicial governance and the rule of law - Reform aspects of the judicial governance system to ensure the independence and accountability of the judiciary. Establish clear criteria for the appointment of judges and scale up judicial training to improve the quality of judges in our courts. Consideration should be given to the extension of community service to law graduates in order to increase legal representation for the poor and speed up the administration of justice in the lower courts.
In building a resilient anti-corruption system, the commission proposes the following:
Strengthening the multi-agency anti-corruption system.
Strengthen protection of whistleblowers.
Centralise the awarding of large tenders or tenders with long duration.
- Give greater teeth to the tender compliance monitoring office to investigate both corruption and the value for money aspect of tenders.
Sources: Sapa, Politicsweb