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Dear Corruption Watch
If there is one (or several) thing(s) Corruption Watch would like to see the government do better in respect of limiting opportunities for corruption, or showing more muscle when prosecuting the corrupt, what would it be? Concerned
There are many countries that have had serious problems with corruption. Those most successful in dealing with corruption (such as Hong Kong and Botswana) have done so by establishing a single anti-corruption body with a three-pronged strategy for combatting corruption: enforcement, education and prevention.
In our view – and this should be urgently debated and resolved – establishing one independent body to deal with corruption and providing it with sufficient resources to implement this three-pronged strategy would be the single most effective step the government could take to deal with corruption.
Enforcement means detecting, investigating, and prosecuting cases of corruption. Prevention means eliminating opportunities for corruption. Education means informing the public and officials about corruption and creating an anti-corruption culture.
In South Africa at the moment, there are many overlapping institutions and bodies that are responsible for dealing with corruption. These include the South African Police Service, the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit, and the Asset Forfeiture Unit. The Public Protector and Auditor-General also have an important investigative and monitoring role to play.
This profusion of institutions results in overlapping responsibilities that create difficulties for co-ordination and often result in piecemeal and patchy approaches to corruption.
This results in three kinds of problems: first, due to lack of coordination and ultimate accountability for dealing with corruption, many of the key legal provisions dealing with corruption are not adequately monitored or enforced. Most corrupt acts therefore go undetected and unpunished.
Second, none of the organisations and bodies has a clear mandate to educate South Africans about corruption or conduct a public campaign of any kind.
Third, none of the existing institutions is truly institutionally independent. The SAPS, Hawks, and Asset Forfeiture Unit, who bear a primary responsibility to combat corruption, are all directly responsible to the Executive, and their heads and personnel are not expressly protected against dismissal or removal.
A solution to all three of these problems would be to create an independent anti-corruption agency with a mandate to combat corruption by following the three-pronged strategy of investigation and prosecution, prevention, and education. Such an institution, if properly funded and well staffed, would enable decisive and effective action to be taken.
Independence requires that there be a sufficient degree of legal and institutional insulation from political interference for the agency to investigate all acts of corruption without fear or favour.
The biggest challenge to establishing such an agency and ensuring its success is the existence of political will and support for such an agency. No matter how carefully an agency is designed, it will fail if the political will to support it does not exist. For this reason, a wide range of political support, including from civil society and the unions would be required to establish a single agency.
Unfortunately, at present there does not seem to be much appetite for an effective and independent anti-corruption agency on the part of our political leadership.
After the Constitutional Court recently found that the legislation that created the Hawks was unconstitutional for failing to secure a sufficient degree of independence, Parliament had the opportunity to amend the legislation and to confer the necessary independence on the Hawks. Instead of doing so, the proposed amendments retain the location of the Hawks as a police agency, rather than granting them real independence.
Civil society and the public will have to turn up the volume if we want to see this sort of agency established.
Take a stand and report an incident of corruption.