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Corruption Watch and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH), in collaboration with Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA), hosted a workshop on 24 and 25 February in Johannesburg for consulting engineers operating within the procurement space.

The aim of the workshop was to train consulting engineers and selected Corruption Watch reporters on the interpretation and application of legislation designed to facilitate access to information and justice, to give them the tools they need to prevent and combat procurement corruption. The legislation in question is the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA),

Leanne Govindsamy, head of legal and investigations at Corruption Watch, said: “We wanted to empower people to act without waiting for our intervention. We as Corruption Watch have the practical knowledge on how to do that and through our partner GIZ we can give them the tools and education on how to intervene.”

She said the organisation has been engaging with government as well as other organisations in the procurement space, and the idea for the workshop arose from the recognition that people working in this area see many irregularities but don’t always have the means to deal with them. “There isn’t any education directed at helping those working in procurement to recognise, resist and report tender corruption – that’s what we wanted to do with this pilot workshop.”

Speaking at the start of the event, CESA CEO Christopher Campbell said this was an important workshop for the association because it wants to maintain a healthy industry. “We want to be our members’ conscience and ensure there is compliance with the national treasury’s Public Finance Management Act. We want to know how to change behaviour and have it sustainable.”

CESA members regularly submit reports in a bid to curb corruption in procurement, putting their jobs and tender opportunities at risk. The workshop sought to provide participants with holistic and targeted training to empower them to not only protect their own rights within the procurement process, but also to be able to monitor and oversee procurement processes in all areas in which they work.

Disclosure over secrecy

The workshops were an interactive exchange between participants and facilitators, with the former sharing their expectations, experiences and asking questions on how to apply the legislature. To start off, participants highlighted their expectations, among them finding tactical techniques to deal with corruption, learning where the overlaps of corruption and engineering procurement lay, how to be proactive versus reactive, lessons from fellow participants and how to keep integrity in a corrupt environment.

On day one facilitator Lynette Berrington from GIZ took the participants through the PAIA and PAJA training, with contributions from Govindsamy and GIZ’s Lukas Gundermann. Participants engaged deeply, ensuring they understand how the two pieces of legislature work and how they can help them. Govindsamy guided the participants on how far they can take their actions. She used a few Corruption Watch cases and some of the participants’ past and current cases to demonstrate how to apply the legislation.

Berrington stressed that participants should “always choose disclosure over secrecy”. She said that when submitting a request to a public body, the applicant does not need to state why they need the information and should therefore not be afraid to send an application as they have a constitutional right to do so.

Gundermann took the participants through procurement planning and bid specifications, showing them the loopholes where corruption starts to infiltrate, and informing them how they can use PAIA and PAJA to hold corrupt individuals or companies to account. Participants also examined case studies where they were encouraged to apply their new-found knowledge and attempt to reach a resolution before they were given the actual outcome of the cases.

Empowered to act

The second day saw participants looking further into all stages of procurement, identifying the opportunities for corruption in each stage, and learning how to use PAIA and PAJA to protect themselves and curb instances of corruption.

Participants left the two-day workshop feeling empowered and encouraged. Nicolette Erasmus, a legal consultant from Magnitech and one of Corruption Watch’s reporters, said the workshop was informative and gave participants great material to take away. “I feel empowered to act,” she said.

Phumi Mzolo from CESA said the sessions were very informative, “I wondered if there was an organisation that was out there watching and doing something about corruption and I’m encouraged to know there is.” She said while she personally has not experienced victimisation, she feared this happening when reporting corruption unless assured that she can be protected.

Dinky Mathabela, a legal adviser for engineering company Royal Haskoning, said she is tremendously concerned about the level of corruption, but she wants to be part of the solution, “It’s not enough to just be compliant on your own – how long will I keep saying I’m compliant and yet corruption continues to plague our country? We need to keep the moral stand of our country – certain things are wrong and remain wrong.”