Dear Corruption Watch
DEAR CORRUPTION WATCH
I run a small business that is dependent on a single contract with a government department. I have evidence that the person who manages our supplier status is corrupt. If I blow the whistle, can I ensure our company doesn't lose the government business we need, or does South Africa's whistle-blower protection law only protect employees from victimisation, not suppliers?
Dear Concerned citizen,
We must first advise you that if you fail to report the corruption to the police, you commit a criminal offence punishable with up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 requires that any person "who holds a position of authority" and who knows or suspects that corruption is being committed must report this to a police official. As someone who manages or controls a business, you hold a position of authority and must therefore report the corruption to the police.
The main law protecting whistle-blowers against victimisation, reprisals and discrimination is called the Protected Disclosures Act, 2000. As you suggest, this act only applies to employees and will not protect you.
The Companies Act of 2008 also has whistle-blower protection, which extends to a broader range of people including shareholders, employee representatives and suppliers. But this act is limited to corruption committed by companies, and so does not cover your situation either.
Nevertheless, there are several channels for reporting corruption anonymously or subject to guaranteed confidentiality, which you should exploit:
1. Crime Stop – the South African Police Service’s toll-free, anonymous hotline: 08600 10111. Since it is an offence to fail to report the corruption to the police, you should begin by calling Crime Stop.
2. The public protector, who has the power to investigate and take action against any misconduct of a public body or official. Information submitted to the public protector's office is treated as strictly confidential. You can contact the public protector by:
• Calling the complaints office: 0800 11 20 40 (toll-free);
• E-mailing email@example.com;
• Completing the online complaints form at http://www.pprotect.org/lodge_complaint/complaints_form.asp ;
• Writing a letter with the following information:
(i) The nature of the complaint
(ii) Background and history of the complaint;
(iii) The reasons why you feel the complaint; should be investigated by the public protector;
(iv) The steps you have taken to solve the problem yourself (if applicable). You should mention names of the officials you have been dealing with, on what dates, and what was said. Copies of any correspondence between you and the officials should be attached to your letter; and
(v) A telephone number where you can be reached.
• Visiting the office for an interview or consultation. Addresses for offices are on the public protector's website: http://www.pprotect.org.
3. The Public Service Anti-Corruption Hotline at 0800 701 701. This toll-free, 24-hour hotline is specifically set up to address public sector corruption. You can choose to remain completely anonymous (and be identified by a reference number only) or partially anonymous (in which case, the call centre retains your details but does not pass them on to the investigating officer or publish them). To facilitate the investigation, you should give as many details as possible (names, dates, places, proof). Also email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a toll-free fax to 0800 204 965.
4. Corruption Watch. You can register a complaint online using our Incident Reporter: https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/content/make-your-complaint . You can do so anonymously, but Corruption Watch will in any case keep your identity confidential.
5. The Media. You can always approach the media with your information. The media must keep your identity secret if you request such confidentiality.
Take a stand and report corruption. This article originally appeared in The Sunday Business Times on 18 March 2012.
I run a small business that is dependent on a single contract with a government department. I have evidence that the person who manages our supplier status is corrupt.