Independent civil society institute Corruption Watch embarked on its outreach to the public today, launching a website and SMS hotline to receive reports of corruption and posting an online pledge for people to sign rejecting corruption. The website will be a repository of stories from the South African public; a secure portal for evidence-based whistle blowing activity and a resource for information about corrupt activities in South Africa. “By gathering, interpreting and acting on information from the public, the media and other sources,” Director David Lewis said, “Corruption Watch will expose the corrupt and the misuse in particular of public money. We have formed this institution to enable citizens to report and confront public and private sector individuals abusing their power and position.” The data collected by the organisation will be used to reveal ‘hotspots’ of corrupt activity around the country at municipal, provincial and national level. Where corruption is rife, Corruption Watch will seek partnerships with powerful organs of civil society to effect change. “We want to help move the national conversation about corruption from resignation to action,” said Lewis. Funded principally by donations from charitable foundations, Corruption Watch was initiated by Cosatu’s office bearers, who were receiving an increasing number of complaints about corruption from its membership and the general public. It is a non-profit organisation and the board is comprised of the following individuals: Bobby Godsell, Adila Hassim, David Lewis, Mary Metcalfe, Mavuso Msimang, Archbishop Ndungane, Kate O’Regan, Zwelinzima Vavi, and is chaired by Vuyiseka Dubula. The website will be the main interface between the public and Corruption Watch, though it can be reached via SMS, twitter and facebook. Through social media, people can share their stories about all manner of corruption, including but not exclusive to bribery, kickbacks and graft; influence peddling and patronage; corruption in the work place where they’ve seen or been victims of favouritism, nepotism, ghost workers and illegitimate absenteeism. People may be able to report instances of bid-rigging, price-fixing, arbitrage and profiteering, cartels and collusion and tender and procurement irregularities. The personal details of anyone reporting an incident will be kept confidential, but the information collected will be aggregated, enabling Corruption Watch to analyse the data, spot patterns and draw a ‘heat map’ of when and where corruption is occurring. “Information from crowd-sourcing offers a clear understanding of what is happening on the ground,” said Lewis. “While we won’t be in a position to investigate each and every report, the combined knowledge of people coming to our site will provide us with a powerful tool to build alliances with other institutions and NGOs. Strengthening the scale and voice of civil society will help South Africans defeat corruption.” From some of the aggregated information – and occasionally a personal story that is representative of an endemic form of corruption – Corruption Watch will initiate research, commission reports and compile sufficient documentation to refer matters to the appropriate investigative or prosecutorial authority, or engage in policy-based advocacy work. “Our first campaign,” said Lewis, “is asking people to sign a pledge online, or via SMS, refusing to participate in corruption and, if they are civil servants, committing to treating public resources with respect.” The public can tell Corruption Watch about their experiences and sign the pledge on the website (www.corruptionwatch.org.za). To SMS, send the text “BRIBE” to report corruption or, to sign the pledge, type “PLEDGE” plus your first and last names to the number 45142 (the SMS costs R1). People can also talk about it on facebook (CorruptionWatch) and twitter (@corruption_sa), or follow #corruptionwatch. “We are all degraded and affronted by corruption. It threatens our institutions, service delivery, public trust and indeed our democracy. Together we can reject the abuse of public money, which so disproportionately affects the poor,” concluded Corruption Watch Chairperson Vuyiseka Dubula. For further information: David Lewis, executive director email@example.com +27 82 576 3748 Ella Scheepers firstname.lastname@example.org +27 84 333 3110 Jennifer Cohen email@example.com +27 82 468 6469 Excerpt Independent civil society institute Corruption Watch embarked on its outreach to the public today, launching a website and SMS hotline to receive reports of corruption and posting an online pledge for people to sign rejecting corruption.