Corruption Watch (CW) today released its latest annual corruption report. Titled The Writing is on the Wall, it shows how throughout 2019, the public continued to expose corrupt individuals intent on abusing their power and looting public resources in key sectors. The 3 694 whistle-blower reports in 2019 highlighted how individuals were robbed of access to their fundamental right to safety and security and basic services through corruption in policing, schools, healthcare, and the mining sector, to name a few.

David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, commented: “We release this report in the midst of a global and national crisis of unprecedented proportions. This crisis has thrown into sharp relief the deadly consequences of corruption, at this stage most particularly the corruption that has resulted in dysfunctional local government and that has devastated the public health and water sectors. Make no mistake: lives that would have otherwise been saved will now be lost as a direct consequence of corruption.”

We should not expect corruption to abate in the teeth of this public health crisis, added Lewis. “On the contrary, the crisis may exacerbate the abuse of power and resources that accompany the necessary relaxation of procurement regulations and the extension of emergency powers to law enforcement. As attention turns elsewhere unscrupulous elements in the private sector will engage in price gouging and procurement corruption.”

The public need to remain vigilant and committed to exposing corruption, Lewis cautioned, “even as life is dominated by the necessity to limit the spread of the virus. We remain ready to play our role.’

Listen to voice clips in English, Setswana and isiZulu below.

The facts and figures

In 2019, the organisation received an average of 10 reports a day, demonstrating the public’s commitment to continue to expose those corrupt individuals who have sought to further their own private interests at the expense of ordinary people. In terms of the hotspots of corruption, the highest number of reports were received in the policing sector (12%), followed by schools at 10%, mining, traffic and licensing at 9%, and healthcare at 4%. These allegations of corruption have primarily featured bribery (17%), procurement corruption (16%) and mismanagement of funds (15%), all of which have impacted the delivery of services and denied people of their basic socio-economic rights.

The data shows that 29% of corruption reports involve national government, a 2% increase from 2018, while local government counts for 26%, and provincial government 20%.  A fifth of the reports, 19%, point a finger at the private sector. As in previous years, most reports were received from Gauteng (47%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal at 10%, and Limpopo at 9%, the latter featuring in the top three provinces for the second year in a row. It is not surprising that Gauteng remains in the lead as the highest populated province, the most economically active and where the seat of national government is located.

Shift in focus

The 2019 figures highlight the shift in focus that has dictated the work of Corruption Watch, and its intensified engagement in fighting corruption in the provision of policing services, healthcare, and in addressing the dire circumstances of marginalised mining and other disadvantaged communities.

The emphasis of the organisation’s activities continues to be on promoting social justice and human rights, and in incorporating the lessons learned from combating corruption during the state capture era of the past eight years. Key aspects of this work include identifying gaps in the legal and policy framework, calling for greater transparency in the appointment of public sector leaders, and in holding key private sector firms and professions to account for their complicity in corruption.

Among the significant wins in the area of strategic litigation during 2019 were the successful review of the Seriti Commission, representing important vindication for Corruption Watch and Right2Know  in this longstanding matter. Important legal precedent was also established by the ruling requiring Cash Paymaster Services to pay back the R316-million which it had unlawfully acquired from the South African Social Security Agency.

The subject of corruption in the policing sector emerged repeatedly over the course of the year, with members of the public reporting on abuse of power, bribery and dereliction of duty which have had a serious impact on their lives.

Mining remains one of the key focus areas for the organisation. CW’s engagement and consultation with a variety of communities confirms a bleak state of affairs in the sector. Embattled by multiple challenges, mining-affected communities also grapple with devastating consequences of widespread corruption in the sector. The organisation continues to play a pivotal role in advocating for greater transparency in the management of mining royalties owed to the impoverished communities and for a criminal investigation of the many millions of rands that have been looted from accounts managed on their behalf by provincial authorities.

The public healthcare system continues to crumble in the face of corruption and other factors that have contributed to its deterioration over the years. The 2019 annual corruption report has highlighted irregular expenditure, financial misconduct, theft, moonlighting and many other types of corruption as areas of concern. As a result, the organisation is taking these concerns forward and is an active participant in the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum, officially launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, in response to the dire state of the healthcare system in the country. CW is also part of the South African leg of a five-country study and advocacy campaign promoting open contracting in public healthcare procurement. These form part of the broader interventions that the organisation has embarked upon to tackle corruption in the sector.

For those who have contributed to the breakdown of the South African state, the crumbling of state-owned enterprises, and the rot at key institutions, the writing is on the wall. The public will not let up in continuing to expose those who obstruct the rebuilding of the country, who continue to hold on to their ill-gotten gains, or who are determined to fight back and re-capture the South African state.  

Corruption Watch, together with the people with whom it engages, will be unrelenting in the quest to build a society free from corruption and abuse.

Download the report here.