11 March 2012 – Municipalities, traffic cops, and the health sector were frequently mentioned in the corruption cases reported to Corruption Watch within its first month of operation. The civil society organisation, launched in late January, has received more than 500 complaints from around the country.
Just less than half of the total number of reported cases falls within the mandate of Corruption Watch. The organization defines corruption as the abuse of power and public resources – whether at the hands of government or business sector employees and institutions – for personal gain. Corruption could include the abuse of lottery funds, municipal funds, government pension funds and medical aids, and public donations to charitable bodies.
About 32% of the complaints concerned industrial relations issues, consumer grievances (especially about banks), misconduct by lawyers, municipal mismanagement, and business-to-business fraud. Many of these have been referred to organizations better placed to deal with consumer protection or labour issues. The remaining 25% of cases require further assessment as they were not easy to categorise. They were service delivery complaints which may be due to badly managed processes or a result of corrupt behaviour.
Most cases were reported via the CW website, email, Facebook and the SMS hotline. The complaints were mainly from impoverished communities who were using the various CW communications platforms to be heard. Executive Director, David Lewis said: “We would expect to get more information from townships and rural communities because this is where the effects of corruption are felt the most.”
He added: “the strong response from the public in the first month reflects a clear willingness on the part of members of the public to reveal their experiences of corruption and speak out against it. It is our objective to facilitate the flow of information and enable the public to hold their leaders accountable. We will investigate certain of these complaints and we will use the information to identify hot spots of corruption. Our principle objective is to give voice to the public. No government or business leader who looks at our data and at our face book page can be left in any doubt as to the level of outrage on the part of ordinary members of the public.”
CW is currently investigating various cases of serious allegations of corruption. Lewis said: “In two of these, we believe that we have sufficient evidence to refer to the law enforcement authorities or the Public Protector. We will closely monitor progress on the cases and inform the public regularly.”
Lewis said some of the cases reported by the whistle blowers did not offer enough information for CW to launch a full investigation.
He added that whistle blowers could choose to remain anonymous: “Just report all you know.”
In its first month, Corruption Watch has also launched an application with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Gauteng Department of Health for access to the report of an SIU investigation into allegations of fraud, procurement irregularities, and financial mismanagement in the Gauteng Health Department. The investigation was initiated by a Proclamation in May 2010. However, the report on the investigation was never shared with the public.
The SIU report, said Lewis, was likely to reveal “crucial details about how public officials abused their power and public resources to undermine not only the health system but the general health of ordinary citizens. Access to the SIU report will greatly assist the process of discussion of a report into corruption in the health sector which has been commissioned by the CW and which we expect to release soon. Healthcare corruption is not only about money – it’s about life and death.”
Next month, Corruption Watch will launch its first campaign and release its report into corruption in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department’s traffic policing function. This will kick off a major campaign aimed at reforming the JMPD and informing the public about their rights and duties in relation to corruption in traffic policing.
Accessing and sharing of information to enable the public to fight against corruption is central to Corruption Watch’s advocacy role. During its first month, the Corruption Watch website has raised awareness about the latest corruption cases around the country and offered information on what the public can do to prevent or report corruption. Its Facebook page and twitter have become active platforms of expression and an important source of information about the extent and nature of corruption that ordinary South Africans experience.
To report cases, visit the Corruption Watch website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS 45142, which costs R1 per message.
For more information contact:
Office: 011 214 7140
Fax: 011 447 2696
Cell: 076 862 9086
Corruption Watch has received more than 500 complaints from around the country in its first month of operation, with municipalities, traffic cops and the health sector dominating cases reported to the organisation.