Dear Corruption Watch,
In what ways would your organisation like to see the new administration strengthening the legal and regulatory framework aimed at combating corruption?
The biggest problem is not in the content of the law. It is our inadequate enforcement owing to a lack of political will and suitably skilled law enforcement personnel.
Top of our priorities for the new administration is a renewed determination and assault on corruption in all its guises. We need to spend more energy and money fighting this.
Corruption Watch will continue to hold the government to account by demanding the requisite will to fight corruption.
In particular, the government needs to enforce the following:
The proper implementation of the financial disclosures framework for public officials – at present, there is a range of codes of conduct in each sphere of government. There is no single body tasked with ensuring that politicians or public servants meet the disclosure requirements to avoid conflicts of interest. Where individuals fail to disclose their interests, no clear procedure exists to discipline the person involved;
Amendments to legislation have now banned public servants from contracting with the state. We look forward to the rigorous enforcement of these provisions;
The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act requires stronger enforcement, in particular section 34, which requires people in positions of authority to report corruption when it comes to their attention. Authority figures must be aware of much of the corrupt activities taking place in the public and private sectors. Their failure to take action is a criminal offence, yet there does not seem to be any enforcement of this obligation. That said, there are also some changes to the law that should be considered.
First, the Protected Disclosures Act creates procedures for employees in the public and private sectors to disclose information regarding unlawful or irregular conduct by their employers or co-workers. These disclosures are protected by the act.
But one of the shortcomings of the act is that it limits protection to current employees. Protection is limited to whistleblowers in a formal permanent employment relationship – it excludes citizen whistleblowers.
It also excludes all people in other commercial relationships with the relevant organisation. For example, it does not protect pensioners, agents and independent contractors who may have operated in the same workplace as employees and may have been exposed to the same corrupt practices. The definition of employee should be expanded to maximise the protection given to those who disclose corrupt practices.
Second, the first draft of the Public Administration Management Bill created an anti-corruption bureau with powers to scrutinise corruption-related misconduct in the public sector. It also imposed a cooling-off period before public officials involved directly in contract awards could enter the private sector from the public sector.
Both these sections have been removed from the bill. Corruption Watch believes they should be reintroduced.
A cooling-off period is necessary to protect state proprietary information, limit the potential influence of the prospect of a lucrative private employment opportunity in public decision-making, and prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.
• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times