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We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions that will help you to better understand how Corruption Watch works, what it does, and who does it.
Who is Corruption Watch and what are you guys doing?
Corruption Watch is a non-governmental organisation with a surfeit of determination and heart – if not always physical resources. Our work encompasses a range of activities, but all of it is driven by the reports that come to us, submitted by ordinary people who have encountered corruption in their lives and have decided to do something positive about it.
Learn more about us.
Who is in charge of Corruption Watch?
As an NGO, Corruption Watch is overseen by a board of directors, none of whom – except for the executive director – are involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation. The board supervises Corruption Watch’s activities, helps ensure we fulfil our mandate and is financially sound and well-run. It meets every three months to review operations and developments, and confirm that Corruption Watch is on track.
Learn more about the board
If the board is not involved in the day-to-day running of Corruption Watch, who is?
The operational staff is made up of non-partisan admin staff, journalists and investigators, lawyers, researchers and data specialists. We’re based in Johannesburg, and are just over 20 members in total.
How do you define corruption?
We define corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain. However, it’s important to note that ours is not the only definition – some are broad, and others are quite specific. For instance, here are a few definitions of corruption:
This last point is also how Corruption Watch defines corruption. Some of the other definitions don’t specify if the corruption is taking part in the private or public sector, but we focus on the abuse of public office and resources. Note that this may or may not involve a company or individual from the private sector, and bribery is just one of the mechanisms used.
In its note titled Helping Countries Combat Corruption, the World Bank elaborates further on the definition and meaning of public corruption, and its role in the prevention of such, thus:
Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts, solicits, or extorts a bribe. It is also abused when private agents actively offer bribes to circumvent public policies and processes for competitive advantage and profit. Public office can also be abused for personal benefit even if no bribery occurs, through patronage and nepotism, the theft of state assets, or the diversion of state revenues. This definition is both simple and sufficiently broad to cover most of the corruption that the Bank encounters, and it is widely used in the literature. Bribery occurs in the private sector, but bribery in the public sector, offered or extracted, should be the Bank’s main concern, since the Bank lends primarily to governments and supports government policies, programs, and projects.
Learn more about our definition of corruption
How do I make a report?
You have a number of options –
How do you get reports?
Our reports are logged through the online form on our website, or via SMS, through our call centre on 0800 023 456, our online community, various social media, our Mxit app, or via email or traditional post. We are also happy to take reports from people who visit our offices in person to report an incident.
How many reports do you get?
From our launch in January 2012 to the end of 2016, we have received an average of 11 reports a day. Of these reports, 61% correspond with our definition of corruption. That works out to 152 confirmed reports of corruption for every month, or five reports for every day of those five years!
Read more in our Annual Reports
What happens to the reports that you get?
Every week a multi-disciplinary team at Corruption Watch decides what action needs to be taken for each corruption report. The possibilities include:
Will you investigate my report?
It is a fact that we can’t investigate every report that we get. The reason for this is that we simply don’t have the resources, as we are a small NGO dependent on funding, and our function is primarily that of educating, advocating and lobbying.
Before we can proceed with a report we have to be sure that it is in alignment with our definition of corruption and therefore falls within our mandate to act upon – if it’s not corruption we won’t be able to address it. We discuss all our received corruption reports thoroughly before deciding how to allocate them further. To make up for the fact that we can’t investigate every report, we investigate those reports that we feel will have the greatest positive impact on the fight against corruption.
If we are unable to investigate your report we will refer it to another organisation or government agency who will be able to take further action. Some of these bodies may be found on our Who else can help page.
Why won’t you investigate my report?
If we don’t investigate it will usually be for one of three main reasons:
It may also be that you have not given us enough information, and because you have not provided us with contact details we are unable to talk to you.
Wherever possible we will refer your report to another organisation or government body that can help.
Why don’t you investigate all cases, and how do you choose the ones you do investigate?
Because of the limited capacity of the legal and investigations team, investigative matters are screened and accepted on a stringent basis, taking into account a number of factors, including the prospects of successful investigation and intervention, based on information provided and the nature of the matter. Decisions to engage in strategic impact litigation are likewise subject to much deliberation and are conditional on a number of factors, including the merits of the matter and the impact it would have.
Investigations or litigation are often linked to particular campaigns or focus areas, such as a campaign to support the PP or a focus on improving the criminal justice system.
In addition, we consider the length of time which has passed, as it may impact on administrative and criminal law remedies which may be available depending on the nature of the case. The length of time also impacts on the type of information which could be obtained for the further investigation of matters – often people close to the matter have moved jobs or no longer have information relating to the matter.
Read more about our specific focus on the public sector.
Why should I report to you, if you are not going to investigate?
All of our work is based on the reports we receive, and your report will help us in many ways. We need to know where corruption is happening, what forms it is taking, and who is doing it. If we don’t know these things we will not be able to identify trends in corruption, figure out where the corruption hotspots are, launch campaigns that address specific issues, or enter into dialogue with government to work with them on fighting corruption.
We will not be able to draw up advocacy documents, authoritatively telling government – with the weight of actual evidence and not mere hearsay behind us – what is happening in their departments and recommending ways to fix the problems. We will not be able to make representations to Parliament on loopholes in and amendments to laws that affect you. We will not be able to tell your story in the media. We will not be able to work with your community or empower you, through our outreach activities and educational documents, to recognise and fight corruption in your schools and places of work.
So even if we don’t investigate your report, it may still help us to address corruption in your community, municipality or region, and therefore you will ultimately reap the reward of taking a stand.
What happens to reports that are not investigated?
All reports we receive are recorded by our data managers and entered into our online case management system.
We acknowledge receipt if the complainant has provided us with contact details.
At a weekly meeting of the legal, investigations and media teams, reports are analysed, debated and then assigned to an appropriate division. In order for a report to be acted on, it needs to meet certain criteria – this includes, first and foremost, corresponding with our definition of corruption. If we can’t investigate s report, we can use it in a number of other ways that help our work:
Who else can help?
There are other organisations that are able to deal with corruption-related queries and complaints. We have compiled an extensive list of these organisations and bodies that will help you with a corruption or fraud problem.
If you need legal help, we have also listed some organisations and university legal clinics that can help. If none of these organisations can help you and your query is related to a human rights violation, contact the Black Sash.
How can I support Corruption Watch?
You can do this in several ways:
How can I join your campaigns?
We welcome your participation! We will always inform our readers and supporters about our current and upcoming campaigns, so that you know what we’re focused on and can join in.
How can I join the Corruption Watch team?
The Corruption Watch team is small, but dedicated. Our people are excited about the work they do, and despite the challenges, we’re proud that we’re helping to take South Africa forward. Pop in regularly to our careers page to see if there are any vacancies. We will also advertise any openings in our newsletter.
Corruption Watch (RF) NPC is an accredited Chapter of Transparency International e.V..
All views and statements represent those of Corruption Watch (RF) -NPC unless
otherwise noted, and do not necessarily reflect those of Transparency International e.V..