A people-centred government that takes extra consideration to recruit dedicated staff, punishes wrongdoers sufficiently and protects and rewards those who report corruption within its ranks.
This is how delegates at the recent Gauteng Anti-Corruption Summit expressed their vision for positive changes in the provincial administration, that will aid the quest to quell corruption. The one-day event invited public officials, civil society, the private business sector and members of the public to participate in helping to draw up an anti-corruption strategy for Gauteng that looks at corruption in a holistic manner.
Speakers at the main conference included premier David Makhura, Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau and Mumo Matemu, chairman of Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Matemu gave a perspective of how the different oversight bodies in his country integrate efforts to fight graft and promote good governance, to which delegates showed interest by asking questions.
The second part of the day’s programme took a workshop approach, with four plenary sessions tackling different themes. These were “building integrity in all sectors”; “governance and accountability”; “ethical procurement”; and “Investigations and prosecution.”
Participants in each two-hour discussion heard from expert speakers and were encouraged to give input on how systems in these areas could improve. Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis shared his insight on prominent investigation cases in the country, while Peter Goss of the Black Business Council revealed the challenges faced by the private industry in the area of investigations.
Prior to the smaller sessions, Makhura had encouraged active participation and urged delegates to share whatever ideas they had. “It is my firm conviction that we can build a future free from corruption, only if we work together as reliable partners who are determined to win the war,” he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, one of the objectives of this summit is to formally launch the multi-sectoral Gauteng anti-corruption forum.”
The opportunity to participate in the governance of public institutions and services is good news for any community, particularly when it is aligned to projects meant to benefit that community.
Dr Tiego Selebano, the acting head of the Gauteng health department, reported back on the “ethical procurement” discussion and referred to weak systems in both public and private institutions, which allow procurement processes to become corrupted.
“Community structures should be empowered to have oversight on community projects,” Selebano said on behalf of his discussion group. “It is communities, it is citizens, it is the taxpayers who suffer when there is corruption in the procurement process.
“An example is that when houses are built, and they are bad, it is the community that has to contend with the poor quality.”
Increased community awareness drives that educate people about corruption are necessary, said another speaker giving feedback. A third proposed a standard method of signing integrity pacts among stakeholders for every project rolled out by government, to encourage accountability post-project.
Lifestyle audits and more stringent vetting methods for senior government managers should also become compulsory, as should disclosure of business outside the public office.
Those employees who take a pro-active approach to the fight against corruption and fraud should be rewarded, one speaker suggested, possibly by receiving some of the monies recouped through investigations into instances of suspected corruption. Integrity awards would also help encourage honesty among public servants.
In order to rebuild the faith of the public, government departments should refrain from awaiting the outcomes of external investigations – either by the police or other investigating agencies – before embarking on their own internal probes. Furthermore, prosecution should not be sought as the only means to rectify situations of misconduct and corruption, and cases should be examined on an individual basis.
Other resolutions brought forward include :
- increased focus on operational integrity within departments and other entities;
- developing good schools and encouraging youth participation in governance issues;
- increased whistle-blower protection;
- protection of chapter nine institutions and their mandates;
- discourage political loyalties among public servants;
- three-monthly report back mechanisms that are managed by ethics offices;
- more organised training and development of staff;
- maximum punishment for private companies involved in cartels;
- strengthen the resources of watchdog institutions, possibly with the help of the private sector;
- integration of efforts in the different institutions already in anti-corruption work.